This historical novel is a first for Nicholas Sparks in that it features Jewish protagonists. The story, which takes place in North Carolina, opens with the elderly Ira Levinson trapped in his car after he accidentally veered off the highway in the snow. He proclaims himself a Southerner and a Jew as he begins to recount the tale of his fifty-five-year marriage to Ruth by way of an imaginary conversation with her. Ruth was an immigrant to the U.S. from Vienna just before World War II. Her death nine years ago has left Ira bereft.
Meanwhile we read about the meeting of Sophia Danko, a student at Wake University who hails from New Jersey, and Luke Collins, a cowboy who lives and works on his mother’s ranch and rides bulls professionally in competitions across the country. Sophia has recently broken up with Brian, who is harassing her when Luke comes to her rescue. Sophia and Luke’s courtship parallels that of Ruth and Ira, each with its ups and downs. Eventually the two couples’ love stories become interconnected in a beautiful way.
This was an easy, enjoyable read with rich detail about rural and student life in North Carolina, a unique mother-son relationship, an experience in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, personal trauma inflicted by the war, art collecting, the hardships and upkeep of a ranch, bull riding, and much more. Though this is a typical Nicholas Sparks story, it is a unique tale with much to keep the reader engrossed until the very end.