Plot summary (from the publisher): Ira Levinson is in trouble. Ninety-one years old and stranded and injured after a car crash, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.
A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward — even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans — a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.
Warning: Spoilers below!
Note: For those of you that just want to know the connection between the Ira story and Luke/Sophia, check under the spoiler bar. Luke and Sophia find Ira trapped in his car, and call the paramedics for help. Ira makes it as far as the hospital, but subsequently dies. Later, Luke and Sophia go to Ira’s art auction. Up first is the childish painting Danny (Ruth’s old student) made of Ruth. None of the bigwig collectors bids on it. Luke finally does and wins it, whereupon Ira’s lawyer informs everyone that Ira insisted on bequeathing his entire collection to whomever bought that painting of Ruth.
- Luke and his mother were fairly interesting characters. Sure, he was a little too perfect to be true, in that typical Sparks protagonist way, but I was able to overlook it here. Maybe because I don’t often encounter characters that are ranked in the PBR circuit!
- The ending was so totally ridiculous that I don’t even want to waste my time spelling out everything that I hated about it. Suffice to say, it was eye-rollingly bad. Ugh.
- The Ira parts were completely boring to me. There wasn’t a single redeeming factor in that storyline at all. I didn’t get the idea that he and Ruth had a love affair for the ages, so his constant yearning for her just felt overwrought. And let’s not even go into the spirit angle. Is this something that Sparks does a lot?? There was also a spirit present in Safe Haven, right? Good grief.
- Sophia was annoying and whiny. She was the kind of “I’m too good for my peers” snob that I can’t stand and that I ran into far too many times in college. Ooh, look at the “drunk slobs” that actually enjoy parties and having a social life. God forbid!
- Whenever Ira started rambling about his art collection, Black Mountain College, and his and Ruth’s anniversary traditions, I fell asleep. Again, it was boring, not romantic.
While I freely admit that I don’t fit Sparks’ target demographic, I have enjoyed some of his stuff in the past, so I don’t automatically dismiss his work. However, The Longest Ride is easily the worst of his books that I’ve read. It is tedious, two out of the three main characters are extremely dull, and the end just makes a mockery of the whole thing. I give it 1 star out of 5.