Two By Two
By: Nicholas Sparks
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined.
As I told a few people, I haven’t read anything by Nicholas Sparks in a number of years. One of my closest friends recommended me this book and reading it, it does sound different from his other books, and I was curious to see how he would tackle the subject of a single father. So I picked it up 🙂 Contains some SPOILERS ahead as I will go over a few plot points!
I admit, this book was not what I entirely expected in the way it played out; contrary to what the above book blurb states, it’s a gradual process how Russ ends up without a job or a wife and in the situation of single parenting. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I guess it served as another reason for me being glued to the book and waiting for when things really fall apart. But like life, it really is a process and just a mesh of different factors contributing to the breakdown of his relationship. I felt bad for him, it was clear they weren’t suited for each other in the long term, and I wished–since the book followed his and Vivian’s relationship–it delved just a bit more into how they ended up together in the first place.
Also, I really tried to understand Vivian’s perspective but it was hard, I thought she was hard on Russell and had the “my way or the highway” mindset.
It was interesting to watch as Russ grapple with the problems on his plate and finding himself becoming more and more prominent as the primary parent in London’s life. There’s of course some stereotypes and roles that he needed to do away with but once he did, it was wonderful to just see him relish his role and come to understand what being a parent is all about and what it entails and how far you’d go for your kid. I’m not a parent but I do hear my parents echo the same things they talk about in this book so it was heartfelt. And I think many can relate on Russ’ struggle to just do the right thing and wondering every single step of the way if he is doing the right thing for his child.
But like any Nicholas Sparks novel, I forgot that a sudden illness tends to appear in the storyline, so when that cropped up it really sort of overtook the storyline. And of course it caught me off-guard and got me all teary (and then I got upset that his book had reduced me to tears at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday, lol 😛 ). But that was heartfelt as well and difficult for all of the characters involved…I won’t go into details here but suffice to say it was a hard read, that bit.
The second chances storyline was a lot quieter than one would expect from his novels but I enjoyed reading it. I couldn’t help but contrast it with his relationship with Vivian; it’s unfair, these two women are obviously very different, but it’s clear that there’s personal issues going on with Vivian and Russ’s relationship that just wasn’t there with his connection with Emily. There’s more equality between him and Emily that wasn’t quite there between him and Vivian. He gets support from her in a way that Vivian just didn’t, even early on with his entreprenurial ventures, as though she didn’t quite believe he could do it.
I would’ve rated this book higher–after all, I was quite glued to it–but the writing was a bit jarring. I don’t know how to describe it, maybe it was the character voice of Russ that threw me off, especially at the beginning; his first-person narrative is meant to be casual and frank, but I found it a little weird for some reason, not entrely natural. The structure was also a little odd with the start of each chapter introducing a flashback of sorts, only I felt it could’ve incorporated into his narration without having to use the italics at the start. I suppose his character voice settled by the latter half of the novel and all of the storylines were in full swing but it wavered my overall experience.
Nonetheless I liked Two by Two. It made me think about a few subjects that were on my mind recently and a highlight for me really was Russ’ relationship with his daughter, as well as with his sister. I don’t know how this book fares with his other recent novels, but I appreciated the difference in subject matter, and of course he managed to leave my eyes misty so there you go 😛