Monday, November 7, 2016

Two By Two - Nicholas Sparks

Every so often, I have to take a break from my usual fare of mysteries and suspense, and curl up with a book guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. Nicholas Sparks books are a good choice for that. His latest release is Two By Two.

Russ is a man who seems to have it all - beautiful wife and daughter, successful career and a lovely home. Yes, things in the relationship aren't quite what they were in the beginning, but everyone's marriage goes through those up and down times, right? But for Russ, those down times take a further downward spiral when he finds himself without a wife, without a job and now the main carer for his daughter.

"When you start trying to figure out what went wrong - or, more specifically where you went wrong - it's like peeling an onion. there's always another layer, another mistake in the past or a painful memory that stands out, which then leads one back even further in time, and then even further, in search of the ultimate truth. I've reached the point where I've stopped trying to figure it out: The only thing that really matters now is learning enough to avoid making the same mistakes again."

Oh, my goodness, I don't know when I have had such a strong dislike for a character - and so early on in a book! I'm talking about Russ's wife Vivian. She's spoilt, obnoxious and oblivious to her own behavior. She may love her daughter, but she's not a great role model at all. I did enjoy Russ's transformation from weekend/after work parent to dad who does it all. His relationship with his daughter London changes and grows over the course of a year. Russ himself changes as well. I did find myself annoyed with him in the beginning of the book - for all that Vivian is a manipulator, Russ is an enabler. He kowtows to her every wish and whim, accepts her criticism and tries even harder to make her happy. I wanted him to stand up for himself - but Russ is a nice guy - to his own detriment. His obsequious behaviour isn't great role model material either.

Sparks excels at relationship exploration in his novels. The husband/wife, parent/child dynamic is explored in not just Russ's family unit, but also through the eyes of his parents, his sister and her partner and a longtime friend and her child. I quite enjoyed the cast of supporting characters - especially sister Marge and partner Liz. And yes, there has to be a romantic thread as well. I won't spoil things, but I liked the way Sparks wrote and handled this part of his plotting.

There's no doubt as to what direction the book is going to take - and I was right in my predictions. But, I'm not thrilled with the ending. 'Nuff said without spoilers. Two By Two is a slower paced book, taking it's time to reach the final pages. I think it probably could have been shortened up a wee bit.

Read an excerpt of Two By Two. (And on a side note, I really like this cover)

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