‘Two by Two’ by Nicholas Sparks: A book review

There is only one other thing that gives me true happiness besides writing and that is reading. And by reading, I mean fiction and by fiction, I mean the kind of books I can pick up without hesitation because I know I can trust the writing to blow my mind and that sort of confidence in somebody’s work is a rarity since I have complete faith only in a few extremely talented writers.  It has been a while since I have reviewed a novel. The last time I did it, it was forced because it was a school assignment and the painful realization that high school has now become a distant memory due to the fact that the years are passing by too swiftly for my liking, hits me now and then. Since it was for school, I had to pick a novel I thought was appropriate instead of the ones I truly liked which ranges from romantic tragedy to murder mystery but this time, I choose to maybe initiate a process by selecting the novel ‘Two by Two’ which I was dying to lay my hands on since it became available but only got to read recently. Why the eager anticipation for this particular book, one might ask and if you knew me, you would know that the author has everything to do with my relentless efforts to find it and read it, or like in the case of most Nicholas Sparks books, experience it. I’m not sure if ‘book reviews’ are going to be a part of my blogging but if it is, I believe this is the best start.

Before I begin, I must warn you that due to my inexperience in book critique and the fact that I idolize Nicholas Sparks – he is my favourite writer (without dispute), this might seem to be more of an author review than a book review and well, I could just be plain biased at some points (or most).

So, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw the book was that it was lengthier than all the other Nicholas Sparks novels (and by all, I mean every single one of them because yes, I have read them all). Maybe it was just my imagination because encountering a paperback edition of a book after a really long time of befriending e-books may have made me believe so. But this was a Nicholas Sparks book and it being huge only thrilled me! Since I had read an excerpt from the book before, the characters seemed familiar to me in the start. It was easy to get where the story was heading initially but my focus was primarily on the narration. I missed Sparks’ style of writing and as I kept on reading like my life depended on it, somewhere I just became so immersed into the story and the lives of the characters that snapping back to reality every time a chapter ended and I considered placing the book-mark and taking a break momentarily, became a difficult task. Now, you can say that I’m going over-board with my adoration but every bibliophile has a particular author they are absolutely in love with and would understand what that feels like (atleast I’m hoping!).

Developing a soft-corner for Russell Green is an automatic process since like all Sparks male protagonists, he is the guy that I’m sure is nowhere around because he is too good to be true! I find it difficult to accept that there are guys out there who could be as considerate as he is, who could be wired to make a marriage work and love his wife – Vivian, someone I grew to despise with every turn of the page. But since I’m unmarried and happen to know some guys who are pretty good but not exactly the best (because seriously, females included, who is?) and since it was supposed to be understood that it was just a novel, I tried to relax. The cracks in the marriage were frankly scary because of the realistic possibility they possessed. And for the first flaw, it was a little predictable how they would reveal themselves. Clichéd, some might say but what compensates for that is how fantastically the emotions were captured and put in words. The story was slow in the start but Nicholas Sparks knows how to keep the reader engrossed with the magical way in which he puts the right words on paper forcing one to stay in the universe he created (I’m unashamed to admit that I even dreamt of some scenarios). The highlights of the story, as is true of most of his novels, were the strong female characters- the way he portrays them makes me wonder whether he is the type of feminist I like because the women in Russell’s family- Marge, London, Liz and even Russ’s mother are so different from each other yet endearing as well as worthy of being looked up to for various reasons. The ugly side of divorce and custody battles was explored in a fresh perspective. The presence of a same-sex relationship made me want to cheer for him because I like it when writers are clever enough to write about things that are relevant and need to be addressed.  Even though romance was what I expected to be the main objective of the story, I felt that it took a backseat compared to the love that existed between family members. I absolutely enjoyed the father-daughter and brother-sister relations that were showcased because even though most Sparks novels do explore that theme, this novel did the best job. But I cannot deny that as he is the king of romance, Sparks worked his usual magic into both the romantic relationships that Russel had and even though it didn’t quite leave me feeling as mushy as ‘Message in a bottle’ did, it satisfied the part of me that loves ‘love’. The interesting part of the novel that I could have gotten bored with easily but surprisingly had the opposite effect was how Russell’s business plans unfurled. The difficulties of being a single parent were best conveyed through both Russ and Emily. The mention of my zodiac sign and a glimpse of Sparks’ letter-writing awesomeness made me gleeful. The joys of having a tight-knit family, the level of understanding both Russ and Marge had with their supposedly inexpressive father, the sudden hit of the tragedy I was expecting to strike because of how familiar I was with the Sparks way of writing, the small but sweet twist in the end (not inducing goose-bumps like ‘The last ride’ though), the importance of walking two by two because no one should walk alone – overall, the emotional rollercoaster that the story was, did not disappoint me. In fact, the reason why I picked up a Nicholas Sparks book was because I needed to feel these things and marvel at how writing could be simple yet powerful and ‘Two by Two’ fulfilled that wish.

For a writer like me who, I recently discovered, pays more attention to the language and word usage more than the story at times, reading such novels is a wake-up call. It helps me to introspect what is lacking in my writing, what I should do to improve because the dream is to go beyond the levels of the writer who continues to inspire me with every work of his. Maybe it is an impossible feat but that is exactly what will help me become better. I don’t want to rate the novel because every book one reads has a worth that is unquantifiable and the only last thing I want to say is that it is time to reconsider the writing on the front page which says, Nicholas Sparks- the author of ‘The Notebook’ because even though his first novel was undeniably amazing, there are plenty of his other works that deserve to be acknowledged as well and as a hardcore fan, I can’t wait till he publishes his next book!
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