Sophie’s illness just seems to crop up at the most convenient plot points, right? I’m a firm believer that you can write about terrible things (terminally ill children, the Holocaust, war, death) without being too sentimental. Things cross that line and get schmaltzy when the sickness itself trumps the agency of the sick character. Sophie exists solely for her sickness to create barriers for Kate’s cycling career and tension with Zoe. She’s more fleshed out than, say, your average Nicholas Sparks character, but that’s not saying much.