5.25.2017

Nicholas Sparks: Two by Two


I wrote an entire author spotlight on Nicholas Sparks so it should
be no surprise that I'm still a sappy girl who loves his fiction. He writes a new book every year in time for Christmas and this was on my wish list. I read it in Florida over the course of one day on the beach because it was so good. While I read everything he writes, I don't love all of it. Some of it is super cheesy and dramatic, but this is now my second favourite book of his next to The Wedding, because it's about simple, everyday struggles. 

The story follows a man named Russell, his wife Vivian, and their daughter London. I really like that Sparks commonly writes from a male perspective, as usually I'm reading fiction from a female perspective. There's something sweet to me about hearing the man's side of the love story, even if it's made up. 

Vivian is a stay at home mom and Russell is an advertising executive, who decides to go out on his own and start his own firm. For those of you who don't know, starting your own company is slow. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of savings. My dad went through this when I was a teenager and I saw how trying it was on both of my parents, but it was so worth it for both of them now. Vivian, unlike my own sweet mother, isn't having any of this slow, low income crap and decides to go back to work herself. Her busy schedule and new sense of importance makes it hard for her and Russell to adjust to taking care of their daughter, and takes a toll on their relationship. Eventually Vivian ends up leaving Russell for her new boss and the family is broken apart. 

But for whatever reason, [Vivian] seemed to be in no mood to listen or even talk to me, and the rest of the evening unfolded in the same stilted way that seemed to be becoming our norm. While I understood that our lives had recently veered in directions neither of us could have anticipated, I found myself wondering not whether Vivian still loved me, but whether she even liked me at all."

I know this sounds quite boring, but that's what I love about this particular Sparks book. There are no crazy stalkers or abusive husbands chasing anybody, it's simple, it's life and I loved reading about this experience from Russell's perspective. Eventually, Russell re-kindles his romance with one of his exes who his family all loved. He cheated on her well before his first marriage and ruined their relationship, but its clear she was "the one" and you get to read about their new romance as well. 

Parenting and marriage are my two favourite subjects to read about so this book checks all the boxes for me. I loved Russell's inner narrative explaining how he felt about Emily (his ex) and how hard it was when they broke up, his feelings for his wife Vivian, why he married her, and how it felt when she left him, and then his feelings again for Emily. It's well thought out, you'd almost think this exact story happened to Sparks as the thoughts seem so clear and realistic. I especially loved Russell convincing readers that marrying Vivian was a good decision, because its so clear to everyone that he was settling. He explains how he was at a certain point in life where he wanted certain things, and how he did love her but perhaps it wasn't the same kind of love as he had for Emily. I found this interesting because you never really hear men admit to this kind of vulnerability, it's usually women who will confess to checking off boxes. 

say what you want but this guy knows how to write a love story
I also found myself becoming infuriated with the custody battle throughout the novel. The wife all but up and abandons them and then is adamant she is taking their daughter and moving her to a different state to be with her new boyfriend. This kills me. I am of the full belief that kids need their moms but the fact that vindictive women like Vivian can have so much power makes me sick. Vivian, to be fair, is hurt and jealous of Russell's new relationship with his ex, but she starts to be quite cruel and make all kind of threats. At one point Russell takes his daughter on a 'date night' where they dress up and go to dinner, and Vivian begins making this into a sexual scenario to show the courts why she deserves to get sole custody of London. It crushed Russell to deal with this and this gives me so much stress about having kids... People get very, very mean out of jealousy and things that should be off limits, like kids, are suddenly pawns. 

My favourite part of the entire book however, was the sub-plot with Russell's sister Marge. It's clear early on that they're very close siblings, and that Marge has been his voice of reason and guidance for a long time. MINI SPOILER- despite Russell's mom consistently worrying about his dad getting "the cancer", Marge is the one who ends up getting very sick. As Russell's life is sort of falling apart its his dying sister who helps him figure out what the right thing to do is in each scenario. 

THEN there's the father. As Marge gets sick, hers and Russell's father starts trying to do as much as he can to help Marge and her wife reno the house before Marge dies. It is so fricking cute, and such a typical dad move. Dads that have a hard time showing their feelings but start putting in all this other (sometimes irrelevant) work are my kryptonite. My own dad is like this. I could ask him what to do about a tough life choice and he'd say to do what's best for me and then go check the oil in my car. Anyways, watching the dad breakdown as Marge got sick was one of my favourite parts of this novel.

He looked almost shy as he began to show her photos of various faucets, sinks and towel rods as well as options for floor and wall tile. obviously he's been at the home improvement store, and this was the only way he could make sure that Marge was part of the design process. Dad took notes as she made her selections... Then rising from the couch, he lumbered out of the house. Everyone knew he was off to purchase her selections, but after a few minutes, I realized that I hadn't heard him start his car. When I got up to peek through the curtains at the driveway, I saw my dad, the strongest man I'd ever known, sitting in the front seat of the car with his head bowed and shoulders heaving." 

I highly recommend this book if you either already know you like Nick Sparks books OR if you're just looking for a new and easy piece of fiction to read. It's very emotional and very realistic, I think the feelings expressed throughout could be relatable for anyone who's a parent, a spouse, a sibling, or who's watched someone they love get sick. You could easily crack this book out in a couple days and I dare you not to cry while doing it. Here's to hoping that when they inevitably adapt this into a movie they don't completely ruin it.

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