Reading the books that inspired Nicholas Sparks’ film adaptations has become something of a habit. Those being, The Lucky One, Safe Haven and now, this The Longest Ride book. 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.
The Longest Ride Book, by Nicholas Sparks
This is one of those novels I really anticipate enjoying. I walk away with a half good, half so-so reaction. What seems “off” to me is the parallel love stories. Taking place decades apart, it isn’t so much the people in the stories as it’s the method in which the stories expose the romance. I’m sure, that by having Ira remember his life, which operates as a tool to keep him alive, the story is meant to be nostalgic and sweet. But, I never warm to this particular ploy. Shifting between Ira’s “present” (which includes 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.‘THE LONGEST RIDE’ BOOK REVIEW: ROMANCE AT THE RODEO Click To Tweet
Ah, Luke and Sophia. I really (really) liked their story. Neither character is who I expect to find within these pages. Given my track record with Sparks’ novels, I’m not entirely sure what I did expect, but discovering these characters isn’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.
What works best for this story is the more “wholesome” narrative it presents. Like I’ve already said, it not what I’d anticipate and that’s part of its charm. The burgeoning relationship between Luke and Sophia moves at the perfect pace, and between them, everything falls 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 ready to fall in love with this story in a different way, thanks to its film adaptation. ♥
ABOUT THE BOOK
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Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: 2013 (Re-issue in 2014)
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Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Romance, Secular Fiction
Rating: ★★★ 1/2