In my little mind Nicholas Sparks novels (and movies based on his novels) have a certain stigma attached to them.
Because I am a woman of the world, however (well, in that I indulge in social media), I know many—mostly women—LOVE his books and movies. I also suspect there’s the occasional guy who doesn’t mind being dragged along to a Dear John / Safe Haven / Best of Me type flick. However, the problem with offering such popular schmaltz is that some people— like yours truly—shy away from his work because of the aforementioned stigma. (And anyone who knows my tastes knows I’m far from a literary snob!)
So, it was with great trepidation I read my first Nicholas Sparks novel, The Longest Ride. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a few films based on his books and like everyone, (mostly) enjoyed The Notebook, but I’d always thought they seemed a bit same-ish.
Mismatched boy and girl fall in love, something intervenes, they separate but eventually get back together. Or one of them dies. #whatevs
Like many NS novels, The Longest Ride offers two storylines unfolding concurrently.
We firstly meet 91 year old Ira who’s just driven his car off an isolated snowy road and down an embankment. He’s injured, bleeding and freezing cold and holds out little hope that he’ll be found alive. His beloved wife, Ruth, who died nine years earlier appears (in various incarnations) to keep him company. It’s through their witty banter and reminiscing we learn the story of their love and life together.
And then there’s Sophia and Luke. Sophia’s in her final year of study, hoping to find work after University as a museum curator. She’s a city girl from a large close family. After a breakup she’s dragged along to a rodeo where she comes across bull-rider Luke. He’s nothing like anyone she’s met before and the two hit it off. Sparks does a great job of their burgeoning romance and it’s soon obvious they’re doomed to fall in love—despite their differences.
The Longest Ride doesn’t really offer any surprises. My only question was how the two plots would—at some point—intertwine. The ending is somewhat naff (technical term for cliched) but I did shed a few tears before getting there.
What Sparks does very well is offer up engaging and likeable (even loveable) characters. I came to care about Ruth, Ira, Sophia and Luke. In some ways they’re just everyday people (which I think is the case with most of his characters) but Sparks manages to make their lives seem extraordinary.
I’m not sure I’ll rush out to read other novels by Sparks (though I really should read The Notebook at some stage!) but I’m glad I took this not-so-long ride. #pun #sorrynotsorry
The Longest Ride by Nicolas Sparks was published in 2013 by Sphere / Grand Central Publishing in and I received a copy from its Australian publisher, Hachette.
* The copy I received was a re-release movie tie-in. Incidentally I watched the preview and was a tad disappointed that Ira and Ruth didn’t seem to get too much air-time. I hope that’s not reflective of the movie cos they were probably my fave part of this novel.