This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Cressida McLaughlin
I am familiar with Nicholas Sparks due to having snotted my way through Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in the film version of The Notebook, but I hadn’t read any of his books before receiving The Longest Ride to review. I got myself comfy with a cup of tea and a box of tissues and started reading.
Ninety-one year old Ira Levinson wakes up to find himself in his car which has plunged over the side of the road, at night time and as snow starts to fall. He knows his situation is bleak, with little chance of him being found in time, and he can’t reach the sandwiches or the bottle of water he knows are somewhere in the car. As he struggles to stay awake, his wife Ruth – who has been dead for several years – appears beside him. Ira knows she can’t really be there, but as she begins to talk to him, retelling the story of how they met, Ira’s spirits begin to lift.
University student Sophia Danko has grudgingly agreed to go with her flatmates to a rodeo close to the campus, even though she knows her ex-boyfriend Brian will be there, and he’s the last person she wants to see. She finds that she enjoys the event – and the atmosphere in the bar afterwards – more than she expected, but it’s not until she has a run in with Brian that she meets Luke. Luke is one of the bull riders, and Sophia is intrigued by his world, and by the quiet, thoughtful man beneath the cowboy hat.
The Longest Ride is a dual love story of epic proportions. Ira and Ruth’s story spans decades, is full of heartbreak and sacrifice, and had me reaching for the tissues on several occasions. Sophia and Luke’s romance initially seems on safer (less tear-jerking) ground. They are a young couple finding out about each other’s worlds and, as Sophia visits Luke’s ranch and learns about his way of life, everything seems to be going smoothly. But there is a bombshell and, when it dropped, I had my heart in my throat. After that I found it very difficult to put the book down, unsure what would happen, and not sure I wanted to find out. Needless to say I was completely invested in the characters, and desperate that they would have a happy ending.
I was a bit concerned that The Longest Ride would be very sentimental, and it is sentimental. But Nicholas Sparks balances this with the pace and complexity of the plot, and the unexpected way Ira and Ruth, Sophia and Luke find their lives flung together. There is depth to Ira and Ruth’s history, even though it is retold, by the two of them, as memories, and all the details – about the war, and about Luke’s life on the ranch – are vivid.
Despite my initial concerns of unstoppable sobbing and sickly-sweetness, I was hooked by The Longest Ride. Yes, it was softhearted in places and yes, I did get through quite a few tissues, but it was all worth it. I enjoyed the ride, Nicholas Sparks, and I’m looking forward to the next one.
Nicholas Sparks' Website