REVIEW: THE LONGEST RIDE BY NICHOLAS SPARKS

THE LONGEST RIDE

Author: Nicholas Sparks
Sphere RRP $32.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Cover of The Longest Ride by Nicholas SparksNicholas Sparks is another author who really doesn’t need my feedback to sell books – he has sold more than 80 million books worldwide, had 11 New York Times number one bestsellers and had eight Hollywood films made from his books. Impressive, yes? I was sent an ARC of The Longest Ride and wondered if it would live up to the attached marketing hype: “one epic tale” and “His most ambitious love story since The Notebook”. Call me a sook, call me a perpetual romantic, but I really enjoyed this book; it made me all warm, fuzzy, gooey and teary … exactly like a love story is supposed to do.

Parallel love stories intersect in The Longest Ride, an easy read that I covered in a bit more than one sitting. The book opens with Ira Levinson, a 91-year-old widower, struggling to stay conscious after a car crash. It’s snowing and he’s on an isolated road; as he sits in his car hoping for help, an image of his long-dead wife Ruth appears, urging him to hang on because it’s not yet his time. Over the course of the book, Ruth’s image stays with Ira, helping him recall the joys and sorrows of their life together – from their initial meeting to the impact of WWII, from their marriage to their life together as a childless couple. Each time Ira sees Ruth, she is a little older, wearing an outfit he remembers well. Ruth insists that it’s not Ira’s time because there is something he needs to do before he joins her.

Ira’s story is told alternately with that of Sophia and Luke, a much-younger couple meet. Their story begins a few months before the crash; Sophia Danko is a college student who’s been dragged to the rodeo by her best friend and when her ex-boyfriend starts causing trouble, Luke steps in to help. They hit it off and over the next few months fall in love, surprising themselves with the depth of their feelings. Sophia’s friend Marcia tries to warn Sophia from falling too hard, reminding New Jersey-raised and art-lover Sophia that she has little in common with bull-rider, ranch-living Luke; in the meantime, Luke has secrets of his own. Sophia knows he was injured in a bull-riding accident, but he’s been vague about the details … details which ultimately could threaten their relationship and more. Their tumultuous story eventually converges with Ira’s in an unexpected and shocking way.

I was feeling a bit sad and sorry for myself when I read this. The word teenagers will give you enough info … and interestingly, I could really relate to Luke’s mother in this story with her concerns over Luke’s choices. Anyway, The Longest Ride ended up being just what I needed – a lovely feel-good, make-you-cry book that gave me the perfect excuse for being emotional! Both stories were very different, but touching in their own way; I enjoyed the city girl v country boy angle for Sophia and Luke, but I was really taken by Ira and Ruth’s story. It’s a slower story but unfolds to show that love is about so much more than a passionate attraction. Of the two stories, theirs was the special one, the one that I remembered and wanted to emulate in my own life.

‘After all, if there is a heaven, we will find each other again, for there is no heaven without you.’

The way the story panned out was not altogether surprising and almost seems written with a movie screenplay in mind – in that sense it almost has a formulaic, even cliched feel. Did I mind? Sometimes I do … this time I didn’t. Could it be better? Yes, but was I disappointed? No. I needed a feel-good fix and that’s what I got.

Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. This copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.

Bookish treat: Since I’ve just made a delectable white chocolate mud cake for my sister-in-law’s birthday, I think I deserve a bit of that!