The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks - Romance at the Rodeo

Thursday, August 20, 2015

About the Book:
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Bought
Publication Date: 2013 (Re-issue in 2014)
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Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Romance, Secular Fiction
Rating: ★★★ 1/2 

Reading the books that inspired Nicholas Sparks’ film adaptations has become something of a habit. Those being, The Lucky One, Safe Haven and now, The Longest Ride. This book starts out slow, plodding through decades of memories and feels as if it’s going nowhere. Fortunately, of the two parallel stories, one works where the other kind of fails. The story is about a college student named Sophia, whose life is just starting to feel normal again after she broke off a bad relationship. On a whim, she and her best friend attend a rodeo, where Sophia meets Luke. Broken in more ways than one, Luke’s recent past is riddled with physical and emotional scars. But he’s not about to give up on winning his current rodeo circuit run, in hopes of helping his mother out of financial difficulties – and no matter the risk to him. These two lives intertwine with that of Ira, an older gentleman stranded on the side of the road following an accident. During his isolation, Ira recounts his own life, remembering his years fighting in WWII and the wife he cannot let go of.  

This is one of those novels I really anticipated enjoying. I walked away with a half good, half so-so reaction. What seemed “off” to me were the parallel love stories. Taking place decades apart from each other, it wasn’t so much the people in the stories as it was the method in which the stories expose the romance. I’m sure, that by having Ira remember his life not to mention, using this as a tool to keep him alive, the story was meant to be nostalgic and sweet. But, I never warmed to this particular ploy. Shifting between Ira’s “present” (which would include reminiscing with his wife) to his past made for more confusion than distinct first-person narrative, and his passages were long. Had Ira’s story followed more in line with the contrasting story of Luke and Sophia’s (i.e., unfolding in “real time”), I’ve no doubt I’d have found it charming. Fortunately, there is another story.  

Ah, Luke and Sophia. I really (really) liked their story. Neither character was who I expected to find within these pages. Given my track record with Sparks’ novels, I’m not entirely sure what I expected, but discovering these characters wasn’t exactly it. Sophia’s low-key, generous personality is sure to resonate with many a reader. I know she did with me. She’s a sensible girl who “feels” like she could be your best friend. Then there’s Luke. I think I let the trailer promotion for this (speaking of the recent film adaptation, which I have not yet seen at this writing), sway me about his character. He’s really much more complex and serious than the trailer depicts him. Spending time with the two of them was definitely the highlight of this book. I rushed through the "Ira portions" (for me, that usually translates into a “turtle speed rush”) in order to return to the cover couple's lives. We get perspectives from both Luke and Sophia, though thank goodness, it’s not first-person.  

FILM REVIEW | The Longest Ride (2015)

What works best for this story is the more “wholesome” narrative it presents. Like I’ve already said, it wasn’t what I anticipated and that’s part of its charm. The burgeoning relationship between Luke and Sophia is neither rushed nor does it plod along. It moves at the perfect pace, and between them, everything fell nicely into place. Their relationship is what will, inevitably endear the film (well, that and the cast, which doesn’t look too bad at all, especially a certain leading man *wink*). Full of could-have-beens, struggles and an ultimatum, this isn’t a book that’s likely to make its reader cry. Or it didn’t me. The “pull” of emotions just wasn’t there or the same as with some stories, but I did like it. Quite a lot.  

For now, Safe Haven retains its favorite status of my Nicholas Sparks so-far reads, but I’m fully prepared to fall in love with this story in a different way, thanks to its film adaptation. ♥

Synopsis: In the tradition of his beloved first novel, The Notebook, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with the remarkable story of two couples whose lives intersect in profound and surprising ways.

Ira Levinson is in trouble. Ninety-one years old and stranded and injured after a car crash, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes 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. A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, 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.

Coming Next from Nicholas Sparks: Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot.  With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he's determined to walk a straight line.  To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life.  Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.
Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success: with a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record.  And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her home town and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.

A chance encounter on a rainswept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria's lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves.  As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria's past begin to surface.

As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria's life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways.  Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they've begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour? -, October 2015

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