In typical Nicholas Sparks’ fashion, The Longest Ride is yet another effortless ballad of romance. The writing style is the back-and-forth telling of two couples' stories, one old and one new. Ira, a ninety-one-year-old man, gets into a car crash and becomes stranded alongside the road in the chilled winter. As he sits alone in the cold contemplating whether he will survive to tell the tale of his fateful escapade, the illusion of his recently deceased wife, Ruth, comes to him. With nothing better to do, the two begin to carefully recount the life they lead together; from being mere children who were falling in love to the hardships they faced along the way. Unfolding right alongside it is the story of Luke and Sophia. Two complete strangers who meet in an unusual chance encounter begin to follow down the same path of uncertainty Ira and Ruth did so long ago.
From the start, I enjoyed Ira. He is a man of “courteous values”, as he puts it, much like his father. With his family being Jewish, he meets Ruth at a synagogue as teenagers. Though he’s busy helping out with his father’s Haberdashery shop, Ruth patiently waits for him. Over the course of Ira heading to college, she still waits. Eventually, the two decide to try and make a relationship a possibility.
Then, the war hits. Ira takes it as his duty and enrolls in the Army Air Corps, though not before asking Ruth to be his wife. The war brings obstacles for all involved, from Ira’s parents to Ira and Ruth themselves, fully detailing happenings that have haunted all of them to the day Ira ends up in the ditch.
Though I liked Ira, I found Ruth to be a bit unappreciative of the dedication Ira often showed. This made reading the conversations between them my least favorite part of the book because the reader can feel the love and dedication Ira has for her, but there’s no feeling of reciprocation. Their relationship is based on him worshiping her, and I feel as though in reality she would’ve left him.
Then there’s Sophia. She’s endearing, smart, and simple. The kind of female character it’s refreshing to read about. Forced out of her comfort zone after a bad break-up with Brian—the chief frat boy on campus who took the liberty to cheat on her not once, not twice, but thrice—she decides to head to the rodeo. She enjoys the show, and attends the after party. Though completely uncomfortable because she’s not a boots-donning cowgirl like all the rest, she finds some spare time alone.
Climatically, Brian has followed her. A fight ensues, which quickly takes a scary turn as he grabs at her. Low and behold, like a true knight-in-shining-armor (or cute guy in a pair of boots), Luke comes to her rescue, taking Brian down like the animal he is and dutifully ending the altercation. The two get to talking after Brian stalks off. Over the next few days, they bloom an unlikely affair, for they come from completely contrasting worlds. But, there’s the underlying hope that it just might work. You’ll have to read to find out!
The Longest Ride is chock-full of dreamy date scenes. Ira and Ruth’s relationship is filled with habitual chocolate sodas, picnics in the park, and long strolls home. Along with that, there's mention of a lifelong hobby of collecting of famed art and constant vacationing all over the country. On the opposite spectrum, Sophia and Luke’s dates detail horseback rides, pumpkin carving, cabin stays by firelight and a constant process of learning to become a part of one another’s unique spectrum of life. As the different dates are detailed, it’s relaxing and intriguing, giving any girl the hope that she’ll one day partake in similar events.
Although cheesy at times, I really enjoyed this chick-flick book. What girl doesn’t dream of a hunky cowboy coming to her aid? The book is an ode, as most Nicholas Sparks books are, to the simple, down-to-Earth guy trying his hardest to get the out-of-his-league, special girl. It ensnares your emotions as the character's past troubles unravel, and the feeling of insecurity and hope that love gives us becomes more apparent. Most of all, this story tells that the longest ride you’ll ever take isn’t the one on a bull in a ring or a car on an icy drive, but the crazy thing we call love.