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Friday, January 24, 2014

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Book Review: The Longest Ride

I have an important job this week. I know that right now you are seeing the cover art of the book I am about to review, and I will bet you rolled your eyes when you first saw it. You were tempted to scroll right past it, knowing full well that no matter what I write, this book cannot change what it is, and what it unknowingly promises to be to every reader that opens it. I was just like you a couple of days ago, when I started this book. I chose to read this book for the purpose of challenging my ability to review fiction. Up until this point, I have given positive reviews of every book that I have read, and I think it is in my nature to do so. So, I wanted to pose a challenge to myself to read a book that I most certainly would not enjoy, and this book sort of fell into my lap.  In my first sitting with the book, I read 30% (my Kindle has caused me to see books in percentages instead of pages. I don’t know how I feel about this). At 30%, I was positive that this review would be a scathing one. The book was bland, contrived and painfully slow, and I was contemplating giving up and choosing something else. But I RARELY give up on a book, and so, with a little help from my earbuds and the Dear John score (to set the mood), I persevered.

As most of you could have guessed, this book is a love story. But, unlike most of Sparks’s other novels, this story follows the parallel romances of two very different couples.  First we meet Ira Levinson, an elderly man of 91 whom we quickly learn is trapped in his car, after having run it off the road in a snowstorm moments before. He is alive, and relatively uninjured, but he is trapped and elderly, and things are not looking good for him. He busies his mind by recounting the details of his childhood and more specifically, details about his parents. Immediately, I admired the detail and thought that must have gone into the extensive character background that Sparks has built for Ira and his family. We learn of Ira’s wife, Ruth, early on, and soon we meet her when she appears next to Ira in the car, a ghost of his past. Throughout the novel, we listen in on the private memories of this endearing and passionate couple as Ruth attempts to keep Ira alive while he waits for someone to find him. Their story is sprinkled intermittently with that of the young couple that is introduced later in the story. From the very beginning, I was far more interested in Ira and Ruth’s story, and the considerable differences in the way both stories are written is both confusing and quite baffling to me. Ira and Ruth’s story spans decades and is enriched with sensory details that really bring the story to life. It took some time for the words to invoke emotion in me, but I can’t lie, I more than teared up towards the end of their story. This is the Nicholas Sparks that has us sobbing in The Notebook, and this was the saving grace for this novel. The bond that these two shared is moving and inspiring, and their lives proved to be very interesting and unique, which I really appreciated.

Mixed in with Ira’s narration, we find the love story of Sophia and Luke.  Being that I am a 22 year old recent college graduate, I assumed that the story of a Wake Forest senior falling in love with a mysterious bull rider would be easily relatable, or at least intriguing to me. I was very wrong. The chapters of the novel dedicated to this couple dragged on for what seemed like forever for me. As far as I could tell, there was no real chemistry between the two of these characters until I was about 70% of the way through this book. Sophia is presented as a sorority girl who doesn’t really care for sororities, which in itself bothered me. I, myself, am not a sorority girl but there is something bothersome about someone who is in a sorority when they have what seems to be zero interest in the organization.  Sophia has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, and she shares a room at the sorority with her “best friend” who never really comes off as friendly or caring. As expected, she goes to a bar, runs into her crazy ex, avoids an altercation with him and our mysterious bull riding machismo saves the day and sweeps her off her feet. Their first few interactions are painful, and it is as if while writing Sophia, Sparks decided that none of her actions needed any justification. She never really maintained a definable personality, and that confused me. Luke is likable, but all around too perfect. There needed to be more danger for me in a story like this. Sure, he puts his life on the line every weekend in order to raise money to save his family farm, but I never really felt like any of the characters truly … cared. The emotion was not there for me.

Something that really bugged me was how little Sparks seemed to care about the young couple’s story. His writing was lazy and uninspired during these chapters, and a particular detail during a restaurant date scene really upset me:
“Beyond the windows, there were people at tables inside, enjoying whatever it was they ordered, all of them adept with their chopsticks.” 
These kind of superfluous and lazy details are scattered throughout these chapters. It is baffling to me why they were included, and had they been trimmed, this story could have been a lot better.

All things considered, I didn’t hate this book as much as I thought I would. Ira and Ruth’s story could have siphoned a tear from pretty much anyone, even me.  The fact that is was unfairly woven in between the lackluster romance of Sophia and Luke is unfortunate.  The ending of the book does connect the two stories, as expected, so I suppose you can’t just read the Ira chapters and skip over the others. I am still trying to decide if they are worth the gems of Ira’s story.

Title: The Longest Ride

Author:  Nicholas Sparks

Genre: Romance

Recommendation: Of the two stories, I would recommend one

Best Reader Audience: Older females

Final Rating: Three out of five bunny bums

Wanna ride the bull? Use the link below and your purchase will support The Lone Book Club!


  1. Well, I guess this is one book that won't be piled up on my nightstand with all the other books waiting to be read! Thanks for that!

  2. The only thing worse than a character whose written description contradicts the brain's thinking process with unjustified behavior and faux-greek-system-loyalty, is a character perceived by the reader as a "mysterious bull riding machismo" who saves the day, along with his family farm.

    What I took away from this story:
    Old people rule.

  3. "Mysterious bull riding machismo" is the best worst character description. Ever.

  4. Calling him machismo was actually giving him WAY too much credit.