Opening Line: “I sometimes think to myself that I’m the last of my kind.”
Well I’ve gotta give this 5 stars because Nicholas Sparks did it to me again with another unforgettable romance. I just can’t help myself when it comes to his books even though they’re not really my style. By now I’ve also read enough of them to know that I’m not going to be guaranteed a HEA, in fact that may be part of the attraction. It definitely adds to the suspense factor as I’m never sure who he’s going to kill off and I’ve thrown more than one of his heartbreakers across the room in disgust but, yeah I keep coming back for more.
The Longest Ride was different from his last couple books in that there’s no big mystery here or unsavory bad guys. No big suspense factor or tragedy (so to speak.) It is still a fantastic story though, the romance is just beautiful –soft and slow burning between our modern couple and sweet and sad via the Notebook-esque flashbacks from our older couple, who manage to give us a complete picture of their long life together –I just loved them. I also really enjoyed the bull riding aspect with its descriptions of the PBR and Luke’s battle with his nemesis “Big Ugly Critter”. The accounts of a hard working ranch life are also well done. Sophia was a little harder for me to relate to; a New Jersey college girl and her sorority sister issues. Still a great pairing of opposites.
Alternating with 3 different POV’s we begin with 91 year old Ira Levinson crashing his car over an embankment during a snow storm. Ira is alone in the world and no one is going to be looking for him for a very long time. In poor health to begin with he is now suffering from multiple injuries, unable to move and barely conscious, somehow his beloved wife Ruth appears in the passenger seat beside him. She’s been gone for 9 years now so couldn’t possibly be here yet she forces him to hang on, her clothes and appearance changing with the times as she urges him to recount the stories of their life together. Their early courtship, the dark days of WWll when he served as a pilot, their eventual marriage and their discovery of art which begins a lifelong hobby of collecting paintings from as then unknown artists. It is a life well lived.
We also meet Sophia Danko, a college senior in the midst of being pressured to join her roommate for a weekend at the local rodeo. Sophia is recovering from a recent breakup after her boyfriend of 2 years cheated on her and realizes her friend might be right, she needs a night out. She meets former PBR champion Luke Collins at the bull riding event, when he comes to her rescue in all his yummy cowboy goodness.
Luke bears no resemblance to the silly college boys she’s used to and despite their differences the two start dating and fall in love. We follow them through the early stages of their budding relationship as they try not to think too hard about what the future holds as their worlds are so far removed. Luke is trying to keep the bank from taking his flailing ranch all while attempting a comeback after a horrific bullriding injury sidelined his dreams. His days are long and filled with guilt and fear.
Alternating characters throughout we see Ira and Ruth’s life lived while waiting and hoping for Ira to be rescued, growing weaker as the days pass. We witness young love and difficult decisions as Luke keeps a weighty secret and pushes himself to the limits. In the end Sophia and Luke’s lives are changed forever by an old man and the last letter he wrote to his wife on their anniversary. Cheers. Sigh.
**I just read that Scott Eastwood (yeah Clint's hunkalicious son) has been cast for the movie. http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/scott-eastwood-cast-in-nicholas-sparks-the-longest-ride-movie-201415