Saturday, October 22, 2016

“Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks – The Parent's Journey

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks - book cover
One of the many questions we are going to keep asking ourselves as we go through our lives is: what's actually important? We are surrounded by so many people and material possessions that we often lose track of what it is that truly defines our existence and makes it worthwhile. Unfortunately, some people go through a personal hell of loss to find the truly meaningful elements of their lives, as does Russell Green in Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks.

We are introduced to Russel from the beginning, a successful man in his early thirties with his recently-pregnant wife, Vivian. As the latter quits her job to becomes a stay-at-home mother, the former also does the same, but to start his own business. Eventually Vivian goes back on the job, and the two start to slowly drift apart, as so many people tend to do. With his wife working, Russell took it upon himself to take care of their daughter, London, giving her all the attention and affection he possibly could. Then finally comes the day when the inevitable happens: the marriage between Russell and Vivian comes to an end. It only takes a few months for things to fall apart even more as Russell finds himself in the precarious situation of having no job and caring for his daughter all on his own. And so begins Russell's horrifying and yet hopeful voyage through the world of single parenting and uncertainty, one that will ultimately show him what it is that is truly important to him in life.

Though Two by Two may very well be a fictional story, it's one that definitely isn't outside the realm of possibilities, and is probably one that that more and more people live through every day. This realistic and down-to-Earth aspect is a huge reason as to why the story is as poignant as it is, making it relatable to virtually anyone no matter if you've lived through something similar or not, drawing on our sense of empathy for our fellow Man. It's a realistic journey through life where things progress as logically (or as it would happen, illogically) as they would in our real world. This isn't the kind of story where you're going to be biting your nails or sitting on pins and needles... rather than being about plot twists, it's more about character development twists.

Speaking of characters, it could be said that the bulk of the story revolves around Russell and the four different women that marked his life: Vivian, London, Marge and Emily. We get to witness in great detail how each and every one of them shape his existence, how they help him find his way on his existential journey in their own different ways. Russell is certainly a complicated man with the chaos in his head mirroring the one in his life, and his thoughts on life are quite fascinating to read as he learns more and more about himself, human nature and the world in general. The women in the story may play somewhat more defined roles than the protagonist, their importance tethered to his existence, but Sparks still manages quite skillfully to make them into complex beings of their own who are just as interesting as Russell himself.

There is perhaps only one complaint that could be made about this book, and it's that the first half moves along a bit too slowly. While I do understand that Sparks tried to capture the atmosphere of a failed marriage where every day feels like a grind, he probably could have conveyed the feeling in fewer words. On the other hand though, it does contribute to us bonding with Russell and empathizing with his pain, so it does at least serve some kind of role.

Ultimately, Two by Two is a fine Sparks novel that takes us on a very real adventure through a tough life, filled with heartbreaks, struggles, sadness, but also happiness, hopefulness and ultimately, triumph. It's a moving and memorable story about being human, one I must recommend to fans of the author and his style of storytelling.

Nicholas Sparks (December 31, 1965)

Nicholas Sparks

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Nicholas Sparks is an American screenwriter, producer, and book writer who, to date, has published seventeen novels as well as a non-fiction work. Eight of his novels were made into major films, the more popular ones including The Notebook and A Walk to Remember.

More of the Nicholas Sparks' book reviews:
The Longest Ride
The Lucky One

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