‘Longest Ride’ is epic Sparks

By Tom Mayer (tom.mayer@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Sep. 12, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 12, 2013
‘Longest Ride’ is epic Sparks


Sparks Notes

• Ten of Nicholas Sparks’ novels to date have been made into, (or are planned for) movie adaptations — including, “The Longest Ride.” So marketable are Sparks’ love stories in Hollywood that a theatrical release date of Feb. 13, 2015, by Twentieth Century Fox Film was scheduled months before “The Longest Ride” was to be released as a novel on Sept. 17, 2013, by Grand Central Publishing.

• The national media campaign of “The Longest Ride,” from television to major print media, billboards and an online reach across a plethora of platforms, will make it difficult to ignore that a literary event is about to transpire with the novel’s publication, but for a more personal touch, three North Carolina stops are included on the author’s national tour. Visit New Bern for the novel’s launch on Sept. 17, Charlotte on Sept. 20 or Cary on Sept. 21. Note: Some author appearances are ticketed events. See http://www.nicholassparks.com for details, including a complete tour listing and an opportunity to read the first two chapters of the novel.

• North Carolina connections abound in each of Nicholas Sparks’ novels — the state has been the setting for each love story to date — including “The Longest Ride.” In his newest release, Sparks takes his readers from the coast to the mountains, including a few towns that High Country residents will readily recognize. Also nearby geographically, one of the four principle characters in “The Longest Ride,” Sophia Danko, is a student at Wake Forest University.

Weaving a thread through two distinct tales that are encapsulated in a single novel is no easy task, yet author Nicholas Sparks walks this tight rope as he combines dual love stories in “The Longest Ride,” keeping the thread taut until the last plot twist unravels, and the whole package is neatly tied up and presented to his legion of fans.

Not since 1998’s “Message in a Bottle” followed 1996’s “The Notebook” have those fans had to wait more than a year for a new work from Sparks’ pen, but the comparisons with the author’s breakthrough novel won’t stop here. “The Longest Ride” not only echoes of “The Notebook,” the story that launched the New Bern writer’s career, but goes a measure beyond in crafting a novel more epic than anything he has written before.

Populating that work are 91-year-old Ira Levinson, his deceased wife, Ruth, and in a parallel story, professional bull-rider Luke and a Wake Forest college student, Sophia Danko. Following an automobile accident on an icy road that leaves Ira trapped and stranded and visited by Ruth, and a star-crossed lovers’ tale involving a cowboy whose secret past threatens to destroy a fragile love built on lies of omission, the lives of the two couples converge in a twist of Sparksonian fate.

The novel is not perfect — you’re forced to suspend belief as you wonder why, in the year 2011, Ira isn’t equipped with a cell phone — but there are moments of perfection. Sparks’ choice to interplay the tales, trading off chapters, moves both stories forward at a page-turning pace. The characterization and voice of Ruth is among his most developed, and snatches of the author’s prose delve into the lyrical, as in this passage in which Ira describes the loss of his wife, nine years before the accident that opens the novel: “gradually the people drifted away, until no one was left at all. There was no one to call, no one to talk to, and the house descended into silence. I did not know how to live that kind of life, and time became merciless.”

“The Longest Ride” showcases the author’s most accomplished work to date. Clearly in touch with his fans, Sparks’ 17th love story, like “The Notebook,” is a tale told across time. Reaching not only young and old, the novel is commingled with enough cowboy action, literary flavor and a maturing gift for dialogue to reach across the sexes.

For details about “The Longest Ride,” including the inspiration behind the work and information about Black Mountain, one of the novel’s settings, visit http://nicholassparks.com/stories/the-longest-ride/.

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