“The Longest Ride” Formulaic Success

Spoiler Alert

Nicholas Sparks has done it again and again. He churns out a bestselling book, adapts a screenplay and almost immediately it is high grossing movie. His most recent book “The Longest Ride,” I’m sure, will be no different. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sparks makes it all seem so simple. It’s as if he has his own formulaic approach to writing novels, a map if you will, for mediocre writing that leads to bestseller success. “The Longest Ride” has all of the steps covered. Setting in a quiet, picturesque North Carolina town? Check. Love at first sight? Check. Tearful moments that readers embarrassingly pretend never happened? Check. And, it is now being released as a film. It’s all there in “The Longest Ride.”

The book takes the form of a multiple narrative novel, following the lives of the three main protagonists Ira, Sophia and Luke. The style is one of Sparks’ major strengths as it allows him to craft a story that is more complex than just a simple love story. At first, the reader wonders how these characters could possibly cross paths. Ira is an octogenarian who has been involved in a nasty car crash. His narrative involves him moving in and out of consciousness where he recounts his life and converses with his deceased wife. Sophia is a Wake Forest sorority girl searching for her passion in life. And Luke is a professional bull rider struggling to get back into the ring after a serious injury, while trying to fight for his family’s bankrupt ranch. It’s quite the cast of characters.

Sophia and Luke kindle their love affair after meeting at a bull riding competition. Their love affair sweetly parallels Ira’s recount of how he came to love his own wife. The book adds all the gushy details that one would expect from Sparks, including horse rides along the mountainside and candlelight dinners. But, the book also has its share of drama.

Luke is desperately trying to win money on the professional bull riding circuit to save his family’s livelihood, but his doctors say he will die if he continues to compete. Sophia, an art history student, can’t find a job and refuses to be with Luke if he continues to put his life in jeopardy. Remember Ira, the old man dying in the car, yet to be found? He’s an art collector on the side that happens to have a multi-million dollar collection dating back to World War II and has no heirs to his fortune. Any attentive reader can put the pieces together on this one.

After the major twist in the plot the book, it naturally comes to a close with the happiest of endings. The ranch is saved, Luke is alive and the couple is happily engaged, just after Wake Forest graduation. The too-good-to-be-true ending is the weakest point in the novel.

Overall, “The Longest Ride” was a step above some of Sparks’ past novels. The novel spans a time frame of over 70 years and, through Ira’s narration, touches upon the multifaceted aspects that make up a marriage, life’s hardships and perseverance. Ira’s portions of the book were my favorite; while I felt Luke and Sophia served for the appeal of the masses.

Nicholas Sparks has a major strength that makes him so successful: he is a storyteller. Though his writing style may not be on par with the greats, he can craft a story that will keep his readers continuously coming back, even if it is their guilty pleasure. “The Longest Ride” will be coming to theaters on April 10 starring Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood and Alan Alda.

 

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