The Longest Ride ~ Nicolas Sparks

"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 - how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can't possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.

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."
~Amazon Description

Brittney Joy's Review ~ So, this is my very first Nicolas Sparks novel! I've seen quite a few of the movies based off of his books ... and loved them all! I mean, who didn't bawl watching The Notebook, Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember, etc, etc?! And, with every best-selling romance novel that Sparks pumps out (and then turns into a movie), I've always pondered "how the heck does he come up with that many great love stories?" And, I've always wondered how his stories read ... what makes them so great?

So, when I started seeing movie trailers for "The Longest Ride," I knew this HAD to be my first dive into a Sparks book. A cute cowboy, rodeos, and a love story? Ummm ... YES, PLEASE!! And, I wanted to read the book before I gathered up my girlfriends, popped a bottle of wine, and soaked in the movie itself. Cause the book is always better than the movie, right? Well, this movie has Clint Eastwood's son cast as Luke (the cowboy) ... so, this may be the first time the movie is better than the book ... we'll see. ;)

Anyhow, the plot of "The Longest Ride" really took me by surprise. I actually started the book without reading the synopsis (I had only watched the movie trailer) and I didn't realize there were two separate storylines - Luke & Sofia and Ira & Ruth. While the storylines eventually intertwine, this doesn't happen until much later in the book.

Initially, the story of Luke & Sofia grabbed me (the bull rider and the city girl) and I really only wanted to hear about their story. I wanted to follow them around as they rode horses, as Luke introduced Sofia to his ranch, as they played kissy-face and their relationship grew. However, the second plotline (the story of Ira & Ruth -  a 90 year old man who just sustained a car crash and talks to the ghost of his wife) really grabbed my heart strings in the second half of the book.

Overall, I was amazed at the way Sparks built his characters, introduced me to their pasts, and made me care about their relationships ... to the point that I was stifling tears and sniffles (multiple times) while finishing this book on an airplane. I'm sure the guy next to me thought I was a whack-job!

Sparks has a beautiful way with minimal description that sucked me right into every scene and every character ... making me feel cozy, warm, excited, and nervous ... all while yanking at my heart strings. I can see why his books are best-sellers ... and I'm looking forward to reading more of Spark's love stories!

And, now, I'm ready to rent the movie as soon as it comes out on DVD! 


P.S. -- I'm not sure about the movie (as I haven't seen it yet), but the book is a very clean, sweet romance. Clean enough for a teen to read. :)