For the last twenty years, readers have been enraptured by Nicholas Sparks’ stories. Many of his stories feature characters who endure great challenges, but at the end of every tale, there is always a silver lining, a hope for redemption—and of course, true, everlasting love.
His newest novel, Two by Two, is no different on the surface: a story of two flawed people trying to find love and hope amidst the madness of their lives. But in this novel, Sparks has chosen to examine a kind of love he hasn’t explored greatly in previous novels: the love a father has for his child.
Russ Green “has it all.” He’s climbed the ladder at a successful Charlotte advertising firm, Vivian, his wife, is beautiful (and within a year of marriage, pregnant with their first child), his sister and parents live nearby…what man could want more? Every man, of course: immediately, we are met with Russ’ concern over having a child so soon into marriage, his lingering suspicions over Vivian’s spending habits, and his annoyance that his promotions at work only seem to be a result of his boss’s interest in Vivian, not him.
At first, Russ is childishly ignorant of what parenting means. He associates a majority of the duties around childrearing (and housekeeping) with women, and believes that his job is to provide for his family, mainly through financial support. But when he decides to preemptively quit his job (knowing he is on the verge of being let go) and start his own company, Russ learns quite quickly how all-consuming it is caring for his young daughter, London. His business doesn’t take off quite as he’d hoped, which means he is the one manning her packed schedule, coordinating her meals, and becoming frustrated with Vivian when she decides to become the main breadwinner and gets a high-powered PR job.
Their roles have switched, and Russ finds himself discouraged by Vivian’s lack of concern for his business, and for their changing family. As her star continues to rise, Russ discovers that for all his life experience and business acumen, he never had any clue how much work it took to raise a child, and to keep a marriage intact—and readers will enjoy watching him rise to the challenge as his character matures in new and unexpected ways. His scenes with London are the most beautifully written in the book, and Sparks easily conveys how Russ’s love for London grows as they spend more time together. Vivian, however, grows distant from her husband—and Russ begins to realize he not only may have lost the fight for his marriage and his business…but he might lose London, too.
It wouldn’t be a Nicholas Sparks novel without romance, of course. Russ reunites with a former girlfriend, Emily, who has a child of her own, and begins to wonder if there might be a second chance for them. And Russ’ sister, Marge, and her partner, Liz, provide ample support to Russ’s character throughout the novel, and serve as a reminder that true love is everlasting, especially when tragedy strikes.
Two by Two is a gorgeous read with just the right note of somberness, perfect as the seasons begin to change. Make sure to check out the B&N special edition, celebrating 20 years of Nicholas Sparks, with exclusive content and reflections for each of his books, including The Notebook, Dear John, and many more.