Friday, February 4, 2022

Nicholas Sparks - Two By Two

Sometimes the end is just the beginning . . .
Russell Green has it all: a loving family, a successful career and a beautiful house. But underneath his seemingly perfect world, cracks are beginning to appear . . . and no one is more surprised than Russ when the life he took for granted is turned upside down.
Finding himself single-handedly caring for his young daughter, while trying to launch his own business, the only thing Russ knows is that he must shelter his little girl from the consequences of these changes.
As Russ embarks on this daunting and unexpected new chapter of his life, a chance encounter will challenge him to find a happiness beyond anything he could ever have imagined.

Comment: The first book I've read in February. I brought it with me from the library mostly because it's been a while since I've read something by the author. Although featuring sad issues, this wasn't a complete tragedy as some of his older books have felt like.

In this book we meet Russell green, a man content with life, with a beautiful wife and a cute daughter, a family he loves and a simple way of living. However, as time goes by, things start to change, mainly regarding his marriage. His wife decided to stay at home after the birth of their daughter and financially, that was quite a change, even though Russ tried to not think about ti too much. Things at work also start to cause him problems until he decides to leave and start his own company, but that puts a huge strain on his marriage. After a while, with things going from bad to worse, his wife decides to go back to work and that is the last straw for a relationship which hadn't been great for a while. Now seeing himself in the position of taking care of his daughter and of the house and of his slow developing company, can Russ really juggle everything when it feels like his life is upside down?

This author is known for his heartbreaking novels, filled with romantic scenes even when the plots don't end up in the HEA readers might have liked. Several of his books were turned into movies and that has given him even more projection. This book seems to be a turn into something simpler, more along the lines of believable situations (as opposed to some of the first books, where the romance often felt too good to be true) and with an end that, while not perfect, is at least understandable.

Russ is the main character and narrator of the story. He is seen by many readers as a beta hero, for he is a calm person, likes simple things, likes the predictability of his days and of his life and has found someone he fell in love deeply, although we are often given hints his wife Vivian might not be in the same page. Still, his life is pretty settled and everything is easy and constant for him.

The big theme in this book is how easily things which have been done a certain way, and based on feelings which felt like they were set in stone, can so quickly fall apart. In this book, unlike many of the others, it seems at first the story will be about a relationship breaking up but to me, this was more a study on how a person might react or not to what is important in life and how our state of mind can matter to our choices and perception. Russ isn't perfect, I often felt he should have been more decisive but if there are two things I can say, after reading this is: of course it's easier to have an opinion if one is on the outside (whether regarding fictional stories or in real life), and humans always want to avoid change, or avoid the emotional unraveling that might cause.

Russ is set in life, has things going well and his apparently innocent decision to quit his job - at a firm whose values he no longer recognizes - to start his own company will be the change to even bigger issues. I think this aspect was well presented, for how often people bet all their emotional well being on something predictable and stable but of course we cannot control the emotions and choices of others. I think there was something about the complexity of these feelings which the author did well by placing Russ and his wife at conflicting positions.

I think that, by having Russ being the narrator, this makes us clearly root more for one character than the other but the plot gets to a point where it's also difficult not to. Vivian's reasons and personality are hers to act as she pleases but it does make her seem a little bit selfish in some situations. Through this all, there's their daughter and if there's one thing they both never stop agreeing is that she matters the most, but they certainly don't go through routine  -even regarding the child - with the same mind frame...

When we reach the end, things have gotten to an unfair position for Russ. I understand his final decision and we have good things happening to him too, to counterbalance some of the difficult choices he has to do, but it does feel no one would win fairly. The book is long, so I assume some readers have also disliked how long it takes for everything to be set up and solved but the writing was fluid enough that, for me, the pages simply flew by. 

I liked this book, to be honest. Not as much as my favorite by him but this was easy and interesting to read. There's some tragedy content, though, so be warned not everything goes as smooth and simple, emotionally wise, as the blurb might suggest. I found the sad parts to be , well, sad, but not overwhelming or impossible to process. 
All things considered, this was an enjoyable book for me, perhaps not the best ever, but for those who are used to his style, entertaining enough.
Grade: 8/10

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