By Nicholas Sparks. Grade: B
To all hopeless romantics and mushy readers just like me, Nicholas Sparks is a no stranger. Writer of epic romance sagas such as The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, and many more, Sparks newest creation to join the coveted list is ‘The Longest Ride’ – his seventeenth novel!
Ira Levinson is in trouble. At ninety-one years old, in poor health and alone in the world, he finds himself stranded on an isolated embankment after a car crash. Suffering multiple injuries, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes and comes into focus beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.
A few miles away, at a local rodeo, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward — even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans — a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.
Two parallel love stories run within the story: About Ira & Ruth – Sophia & Luke.
Ira is a ninety-one year old widow, who is trapped in his car as he was involved in a car accident. Frail and seriously injured, Ira has no hope that he will survive the ordeal. But what gives him the much needed strength to pull through is his wife, Ruth. While caged in his car, he reminisces his one and only love, Ruth with whom he went on the longest & adventurous ride of his life.
On the other hand, Sophia and Luke’s world are like South Pole and North Pole. Sophia is a sorority girl studying Art History. Luke is a cowboy, and a professional bull rider who lives with his mom on a ranch. What were the chances that their paths will cross? But they do and none of them expected what followed next.
Two different couples, two different stories but a twist of fate connects them eventually. The book takes us through the journey of Ira and Ruth’s more than five decades of togetherness. And through the lives of Sophia and Luke, who hopelessly and quickly fall in love against all odds, which surprises them too.
Sparks has done an amazing job in shaping characters and weaving background stories. When he describes the ranch and luscious greenery, you can almost feel you are physically present in the scene. The instant connection and comfort Sophia and Luke feel for each other right from the first meeting will be identified by many. At least by those who have experience love!
What particularly touched my heart was when Ira says, ‘I’ve become what the young are afraid of becoming, just another member of the nameless elderly, an old and broken man with nothing left to offer to this world.’ How sadly true is that? It just makes you realize that old age does not dial down love we feel and how everyone craves for someone, some company. It will make you feel that loss of a loved one is equally painful, irrespective of whether the one who died was young or old. In fact, the more years spent together, the more is the pain!
However, the second half of the book is what disappoints. The passion which was so obvious on the first half between Ruth and Luke somewhat mellows down for no rhyme or reason. The story becomes predictable, drags and comes to an abrupt end. It was almost like the writer ran out of ideas in the end or was plain tired. Another bone of contention is how things fall into the right place, which appears to be too good to be true and a bit unrealistic.
In spite of that, with a good beginning and abrupt ending, The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks is still a good read. Both the stories cleanly define how being logical and calculative is the least of anyone’s concern while falling in true love. The movie is in the making; let’s see will ‘The Longest Ride’ manage to become another ‘The Notebook’ or ‘A Walk to Remember’.
It is sweet, mushy, till-death-do-us-apart love saga – a typical Nicholas Sparks book! So all his fans or suckers for romance should definitely read it.