Recently I re-read Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook. It had been 20 years since it's first publication and it's a book I've enjoyed revisiting many times over the years. I wondered if I would still enjoy it. After all, when we open a book, we come to it with our own life experiences which curtail the impact the book may (or may not) leave on our hearts. I re-read The Notebook and enjoyed it yet again. So when it came time to review Sparks' latest novel, Two by Two, I was excited. I've read nearly all of his books. The first 7 of Sparks' novels are my favorite and I would happily revisit them anytime. But after the first 7, I often found myself disappointed with the stories, such as The Wedding and Three Weeks With My Brother. Two by Two started out with strength. I quickly fell in love with the book, although the story was depressing and unsettling. I was caught up in the characters and relationships and wanting to know what would happen next. Half way through the book, however, everything changed. The story about Russ and Vivian, a couple who's marriage is falling apart, switches to a story of Russ and his sister Marge. It felt as if the story I'd invested my time into had nearly disappeared and been replaced by another.
I continued reading, hoping the story would switch back to the relationship between Russ and Vivian- the story the reader wanted to know more about - only to be disappointed with each flip of the page. The dissolution of a marriage is incredibly sad. It's heartbreaking. Add to that, Russ and Vivian have a five-year old daughter, London, who is stuck in the middle of the separation between her parents. But when the story switches gears completely, a little past the middle of the book, our hearts our torn to pieces even further.
Two by Two is well-written, but the flaws of A) switching stories halfway through the book, and B) the overwhelming sadness of the stories had be wanting to finish the book sooner rather than later. Instead of feeling satisfied with a good story as I turned the last page, I felt grateful to be finished and ready to move on to reading a light romance (with a bit of humor). I was ready to take a deep breath and move forward.
If, like me, you turn to a Nicholas Sparks novel for a happily-ever-after, for a love story that will make your heart sing- this is not that book. That being said, if I'd been asked to rate the book after reading only the first 50%, I would have rated it 5-stars. Yes, it was sad and depressing. But it was also honest and real. It was a well-told story, up until that point. But in reviewing the book in its entirety, I have to give it 3-stars. The second half was off base. The story changed too much. The main characters we'd come to follow, all but disappeared and were replaced with the stories of the background characters. Adding to that, the story grew even more upsetting and sad; nearly too much to bear. After writing this review I logged into Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo to read others reactions and reviews of the book. I found that many other readers expressed similar views. If you're up for a tear-jerker, if you're looking for a book that details the painful heartbreak of separation/divorce, you may enjoy the book. However, if you're searching for a happily-ever love story, this is not it.
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