BY HALEY DICK
Warning: the following article contains spoilers to #1 New York Times Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks’ most recent novel, Two by Two
Like most of Sparks’ past novels, this enjoyable and surprising story was set in North Carolina, specifically in Charlotte. It tells the story of a close-knit family of three, the parents being Russ and Vivian, and their London. Each chapter began with a blurb of text acting as an anecdote to what is to come, though is set in the past. Through periods of economic disparity and conflict told through Russ’s eyes, Russ quits his job at an established advertising firm to start his own business, leaving Vivian, comfortable with her role as stay at home mother, to feel pressured to return to the working world
As soon as Vivian finds herself excelling at her new job in a PR position, the marriage of two previously crazy lovers deteriorates, as the entire family dynamic is overturned. Russ finds his work taking off at snail’s pace, making him full-time caretaker of their daughter throughout the entire summer, just in time for Vivian to break the news that she is moving to Atlanta with her new boss and lover, Walter Spannerman, who the reader never meets, after much speculation from Russ concerning their drifting apart.
The parting of Vivian and Russ put a strain on London, and resulted in stone-cold letters between attorneys as the agreements were struggling to be met. London was seeing Vivian every other weekend and living with Russ full-time, making her accustomed to having her father be the primary parent. Her routine was being altered, and the news of her parents splitting up just about broke her precious heart and the perfect picture she had painted in her mind.
We meet various characters throughout, all playing different factoring roles in Russ’s life. Emily, first love and mother of London’s best friend, Bodhi, lends a helping hand and compassionate ear from before Vivian left Russ, all the way down to the day of the funeral. Their love was inevitably rekindled during their various encounters, and the epilogue indicates that they both move to Atlanta together so that Russ can share custody of London with Vivian.
The moment in which readers knew that Russ was going to be okay in the arms of his new companion occurred with he and Emily took the kids to the zoo for the day. The kids both bought a set of wings, butterfly for London and dragonfly for Bodhi, and Emily and Russ followed close behind, reminiscing on their old times together and becoming aware that new memories were to come. It was during this scene that Sparks wrote the following in the mind of Russ:
“I was acutely aware of how close she was; up head, London and Bodhi were walking beside each other as well, and I flashed on the book I read nightly to London. The four of us walking two by two, because no one should have to walk alone.”
A clear relation to the title of the novel, this quote speaks to readers outright on what all of the relationships in the novel are demonstrating, that everyone should have people in their lives that they can count on because it makes a world of difference.
Sparks develops the character of Vivian to be hated from the beginning, though flashes of compassion occur at times, all surrounding London. She was always so snappy and short with Russ, and always accused him of trying to start fights when he simply wanted to address issues that were crucial to their lives. It was obvious that she was going to leave him based on the way things were written, but the real hatred came when her attorney wrote to Russ’s threatening to imply that Russ was fostering an unhealthy relationship with her daughter, which was far from the truth.
This Sparks novel was so enjoyable because while it focused on romantic relationships as all his novels do, the father-daughter and brother-sister relationships were more prominent, giving it a different taste. The way in which London admired her father made the novel relate to young readers in more aspects than just romantic relationships, emphasizing just how much a girl really needs her dad.