Title: The Longest Ride.
Author: Nicholas Sparks.
Genre: Fiction, romance.
Publication Date: September 17, 2013.
Summary: Ira Levinson, 91, stranded and injured after a car crash, sees the image of his dead wife Ruth, urging him to hang on by recounting the stories of their lifetime together - how they met, the paintings they collected together, and the dark days of WWII and its effect on them. A few miles away, Sophia meets a young cowboy named Luke, who is unlike the privileged frat boys she is used to. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced the extremely dangerous world of bull-riding. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future with him... if the secret he's keeping doesn't destroy it first. Two couples separated by years and experience, have their lives converge, demonstrating that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys.
My rating: 6.5/10
♥ His Rules for Life, he called them, and I grew up hearing my father's rules on just about everything. Some of what he told me was moral in nature, rooted in the teachings of the Talmud; and they were probably the same things most parents said to their children. I was told that I should never lie or cheat or steal, for instance, but my father - a sometimes Jew, he called himself back then - was far more likely to focus on the practical. Never go out in the rain without a hat, he would tell me. Never touch a stove burner, on the off chance it still might be hot. I was warned that I should never count the money in my wallet in public, or buy jewelry from a man on the street, no matter how good the deal might seem. On and on they went, these nevers, but despite their random nature, I found myself following almost every one, perhaps because I wanted never to disappoint my father. His voice, even now, follows me everywhere on this longest of rides, this thing called life.
♥ It was only after we were married that my mother admitted to me that she'd been "teaching" Ruth by telling her stories about me. At the time, I felt ambivalent about this. I wanted to believe that I'd won Ruth's heart on my own, and I said as much to her. My mother laughed and told me she was only doing what mothers have always done for their sons. Then she told me that it was my job to prove that she hadn't been lying, because that's what sons were supposed to do for their mothers.
♥ Aches and pains were normal after any ride, and he'd certainly been through worse. It wasn't a question of if a bull rider got injured, but rather when and how badly.
♥ For it is one thing to declare one's love for someone and quite another to accept that loving that person requires sacrificing one's dreams.
♥ "But I tell you, it was not the art that changed me."
She laughs again before growing quiet. Suddenly serious, she wills me to pay attention to her words. "This is what I think. Yes, I loved the artwork. But more than the work, I loved that you were willing to spend so much time doing what I loved. Can you understand why that meant so much to me? To know that I had married a man who would do such things? You think it is nothing, but I will tell you this: There are not many men who would spend five or six hours a day on their honeymoon talking to strangers and looking at art, especially if they knew almost nothing about it."
"And your point is?"
"I am trying to tell you that it was not the art. It was the way you looked at me while I looked at the art that changed me. It is you, in other words, who changed."
♥ Instead, all she seemed to want to know was how we'd been able to select the pieces we did, but even after I explained it, she didn't seem satisfied.
"Why did she not understand?" Ruth suddenly asks me.
"I don't know."
"You said to her what we had always said?"
"Then what was so difficult about it? I would talk about the ways in which the work affected me..."
"And I would simply observe you as you talked," I finished for her, "and know whether or not to buy it."
♥ I liked this about her. I liked the mystery she added to my life. I liked the occasional silence between us, for ours was a comfortable silence. It was a passionate silence, one that had its roots in comfort and desire.
♥ We spent most of our time walking through homes in the historic district, and it was there that we found a Queen Anne that had been built in 1886, with a front-facing gable, a round tower, and porches gracing the front and back. My first thought was that it was far too large for us, with more space than we would ever need. It was also desperately in need of renovation. But Ruth loved the moldings and the craftsmanship and I loved her, so when she said she'd leave the decision to me, I made an offer the following afternoon.
♥ It was the kind of poverty she'd never before experienced, less about money than a poverty of dreams.
♥ In the end, I simply unplugged the phone, for all of them—including the journalist—thought about the art only in terms of money.
What every last person failed to see was that it was not about money; it was about the memories they held. If Ruth had the letters I wrote her, I had the paintings and the memories. When I see the de Koonings and the Rauschenbergs and the Warhols, I recall the way Ruth held me as we stood by the lake; when I see the Jackson Pollock, I am reliving that first trip to New York in 1950. ...
... This is why I wander our house late at night; this is why the collection remains intact. This is why I've never sold a single painting. How could I? In the oils and pigments I store my memories of Ruth; in every painting I recall a chapter of our lives together. There is nothing more precious to me. They are all I have left of the wife I've loved more than life itself, and I will continue to stare and remember until I can do it no more.
♥ "You're very perceptive for a guy who can go a whole day without talking," she said, peering up at him.
"That's why I'm perceptive."
♥ "I missed you."
"No, you didn't. You were too busy to miss me. Every time I called, you were always on the go. Between work and practice, you probably didn't even think about me."
"I missed you," he said again.
♥ "You should not complain. It is not attractive."
"I'm many years removed from being attractive."
"No," she counters. "In this you are wrong. Your heart is still beautiful. Your eyes are still kind, and you are a good and honest man. This is enough to keep you beautiful forever."
♥ It's strange, I think, the way our lives turn out. Moments of circumstance, when later combined with conscious decisions and actions and a boatload of hope, can eventually forge a future that seems predestined.
♥ It was the silence that did it. The silence that I still experience now, silence that descended after the other mourners went away. At the time, I was not used to it. It was oppressive, suffocating—so quiet that it eventually became a roar that drowned out everything else. And slowly but surely, it leached me of my ability to care.
♥ And yet, in truth it is in the quiet details of our life together where I have found the most meaning. Your smile at breakfast always made my heart leap, and the moment in which you reached for my hand never failed to treasure me of the rightness of the world. So you see, choosing a handful of singular events feels wrong to me—instead, I prefer to recall you in a hundred different galleries and hotel rooms; to relive a thousand small kisses and nights spent in the familiar comfort of each other's arms. Each of those memories deserves its own letter, for the way you made me feel in each and every instance. For this, I have loved you in return, more than you will ever know.
♥ I want you to smile when you think of me. And in your smile, I will live forever.
♥ Over the next few months, the parade of former students visiting my house swelled. Lindsay and Madeline and Eric and Pete and countless others, most of whom I'd never known existed, showed up at my door at unexpected moments, sharing stories about my wife's years in the classroom.
Through their words, I came to realize that Ruth had been a key who unlocked the possibilities of so many people's lives—mine was only the first.