Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: "The Longest Ride" by Nicholas Sparks

"The Longest Ride" by Nicholas Sparks
First published in 2013
398 pages
My rating: 3.75 out of 5

(image source)

*This book fulfills the romance requirement for the Reading Outside the Box Challenge.

It's been a while since I've read a Nicholas Sparks romance, but something about "The Longest Ride" caught my eye. Overall, it ended up being a so-so read that got better as I went.

Sparks has penned two two separate stories that converge (rather predictably) at the end of the novel. The first tale involves Ira Levinson, an elderly man who has run his car off a North Carolina mountain embankment on a snowy night. He's badly injured and trapped with little hope of rescue until the snow abates. But his beloved wife, Ruth, appears beside him in the car, radiant at age 16, and the time passes as the two relive their long life, their love story, and the magnificent modern art collection they put together over many decades.

Meanwhile we also meet Sophia Danko, a New Jersey native studying art history at Wake Forest, and Luke Collins, a professional bull rider and rancher. The two meet through a chance encounter -- with Luke playing the knight-in-shining-armor role -- and begin an unlikely relationship. Their love is true and fast, but there are many unanswered questions -- like what will happen after Sophia graduates in a few months and has to move away for work? And Luke knows he hasn't been completely honest with Sophia about his bull riding career -- there's a huge secret he's been harboring -- and their relationship hinges on how Sophia reacts when she finds out.

When the two stories finally meet in the last pages of the book, the ending is happy and satisfying. But I felt it was a struggle at times to get there. The passages where Ira and Ruth -- while sweet and touching -- aren't as gripping as the Sophia/Luke part of the story. Typically I love historical fiction and I expected to enjoy that storyline, but the writing in those parts felt more stilted and slow-moving.

"The Longest Ride" will surely be made into a movie, and I think this might be one of the rare cases that I enjoy the film version slightly better. But it was still a sweet romance story and it had a unique feel, a bit different from the other Sparks books I've read, that I enjoyed.

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