Two By Two by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"This, I remember thinking, is what life is really about. Love and laughter and friendship; happy times spent with those you care about." ~Nicholas Sparks, Two by Two, page 416
Nicholas Sparks' latest novel is completely different from his typical novels. This book is not your typical love story or about two people coming together against all odds. This book is a story of family, of parenting, and of how a year can change everything.
The book covers a year in the life of Russ, a father, husband, and successful businessman. When everything in his life begins to fall apart--his business, his family, and his love life--he has to figure out how to deal with the changes and do what is best.
I liked the overall storyline of this book because it was unique yet easy to relate to. It is a story of how love can sometimes fall apart and about how life isn't perfect. Sometimes Sparks is criticized for being unrealistic in his novels. This book has a completely different mood than many of his works. It is gritty, it is sometimes uncomfortable, and it focuses on how love doesn't always save things.
I absolutely hated the character of Vivian, which I think was sort of the point. I thought she was the most selfish witch of a character I've ever read about. Russ, however, is very forgiving of her. At times, I was exceptionally frustrated with him for dealing with her in the way he did. Even at the end, I didn't feel like her character was redeemed. I wanted to see a stronger response to her antics from Russ or his family. I felt like her character got off easy in this book, which bothered me.
I liked the focus on family and the father-daughter relationship, something we don't often see in novels. I like that in this book, the value of fathers is promoted. I also liked how it shows that women can be the villain in custody battles.
I will admit I missed the beautiful love story characteristic of Sparks' works. I missed the romance and the beautiful, saving power of love that runs through his stories. This book made a much darker commentary on love. I wasn't satisfied with Russ's relationship with Emily, either. I wanted to see more depth.
I also disliked how rushed the ending felt. I thought the entire book kept building and building in a realistic way until the ending. All of a sudden, things are neatly cleaned up in the epilogue. I disliked how the entire book focuses on a major problem that is tidied up in the last few pages without real depth or explanation.
Overall, this is not my favorite Sparks' book. It lacked his beautiful outlook on love and romance. It lacked a deep, meaningful ending or a true surprise worked in. I do applaud his ability to write a very different kind of story and step out of his comfort zone as an author. I also liked that he brought attention to the father-daughter relationship. There were some nice moments in the book, and the flashbacks were a good touch. I wish he had incorporated a deeper romantic relationship, given Russ more strength of character when dealing with Vivian, and allowed for a more intricate ending.
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