Two by Two Review - Why a Father's Love is Important
by Nicholas Sparks
I have always been a huge Nicholas Sparks fan! I think that he is such an excellent romance author, even when sometimes his work can be repetitive. However, I think his book Two by Two is such a fresh take for a romance novel and is not something I would have imagined being written by him. I was first captivated to read this book because his covers are usually like a couple (almost) kissing, a romantic sunset, or something floral and sweet. However, this cover was a father and daughter dancing and I knew immediately this was going to be different and I had to prepare myself for tears. I was not wrong.
Two by Two begins with Russell Green, his wife Vivian, and his 6 year old daughter London. Russell makes the money while his wife is a stay-at-home, until Russell quits his job in order to start his own marketing company, much to his wife’s dismay. Due to her not wanting to change her lifestyle from this change, she chooses to enter the workforce as she joins a real estate development firm. Russell becomes the primary caretaker of London as she starts Kindergarten while starting his business. He begins to realize he doesn’t know much about taking care of his own daughter. However, the more involved Vivian becomes in her new career, and due to irreparable problems in their marriage, Vivian decides to divorce Russell and move to Atlanta.
As Russell adjusts to life as a single dad, he realizes he has to learn to play the role of mother and father and prioritize his daughter above all else. At the same time, he begins a friendship with an old flame and future love interest, Emily who is also a single mother of London’s friend, Bodhi. The closer they become, the more this enrages Vivian who decides to pursue full custody of London. This devastates Russell as he has just began to have a close friendship and relationship with his daughter as he continually gets to discover more about her personality and interests.
Russell’s sister is diagnosed with advanced, incurable cancer and has a talk with Vivian about how London needs both her parents and not to be caught in the middle of a feud. Vivian concedes and agrees to joint custody of London as long as they move to Atlanta to be close to her. Russell quickly agrees, and to his complete and utter joy, Emily and Bodhi are willing to move down there with him. He reflects on his life and realizes how grateful he is not only to have the women he does in his life, but to be able to continue to be an integral part of his daughter’s life.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 6/10
Two by Two was exactly what I was hoping it would be - a focus on the love between a father and daughter. While I think Nicholas Sparks has perfected the writing of typical romantic love, I think this was so fresh because I don’t think there is enough focus on the importance and difficulty of love between a father and daughter. This book starts out with the traditional home structure that was common for so many years - men being the breadwinners and the woman being the stay-at-home mom taking care of the home and children. While there is nothing wrong with this structure if both parties are comfortable, it is true that it might make the man not as involved in their children’s life the way a mother is because they aren’t spending all day everyday with them in order to really get to know their own child. Russell was guilty of this until he was working from home and became the primary caretaker of London. This book shows though that it is never too late to become involved in your child’s life as he takes this opportunity to really get to know who London is, not just as his daughter, but as a young individual.
I also like how towards the end of Two by Two, they focus a lot on the importance of co-parenting. As much as we love reading about how romantic love conquers all (typical Nicholas Sparks fashion), nothing can really prepare us for when it doesn’t. While a divorce already is difficult, a child being torn in the middle only worsens the situation. I think this book does a good job of portraying Russell’s point of view in the sense that he has to fight past his own personal feelings of betrayal in order to put what is best for his daughter first. Parents need to remember as difficult as this is for them, it is twice as difficult and confusing for their child who hasn’t known anything else besides their parents together as a family. Even when Vivian tries to file for full custody initially, she is reminded that this isn’t about her or Russell but about London and that London needs both of her parents in her life. Continually in the book when things start to lean too much into the problems in the divorce, or the romantic involvement of Russell and Emily, it is always steered back to London and what she needs.
The main thing I really didn’t like about Two by Two was the way they portrayed Vivian. I understand that the purpose of it was to make her someone you didn’t like or root for as you were supposed to be on “Russell’s side” but I think they made it reflect poorly on working career women. While the fact of Vivian’s affair with her boss was unacceptable (come on now - what was she thinking?), I couldn’t imagine someone who raised her daughter over the past 6 years and life revolved around her daughter would just up and leave to Atlanta to live with her new lover without a second thought of her daughter. For years my mother was a single mother and career woman and managed to juggle it as if she was Wonder Woman herself so I couldn’t understand why Vivian felt at first that she had to make a choice between the two when nobody was asking her to. While I am glad at the end she came to her senses, I think it just unfairly pitted the audience against her for the majority of the book.
Another thing I really didn’t like was that Nicholas Sparks just had to put in a sub plot of Russell falling in love with another woman. I know he was divorced and obviously he is allowed to be happy and find new love - this isn’t where I have a problem. I think it just begins to overshadow the story. I understand that Nicholas Sparks has a reputation as a romantic and he probably didn’t want to disappoint fans, but I think he was successfully pulling off a story instead about a father and daughter and the difficulties of a divorce in the midst of it all. I think when he threw in another love story on top of it all, it just becomes too much to be in one book.
I would still recommend Two by Two to others who are a fan of Nicholas Sparks book or looking into a different kind of love story. I really enjoyed reading this story and all the complexities of love as something that is not so black and white. There’s love for family, love for new flames, love for past flames, and most importantly love for your child. I can only hope Nicholas Sparks continue to explore this further in future books because I really enjoyed how much more realistic this book felt. It wasn’t just about a couple living happily ever after, it was more about how you have to be more active in your own happily ever after and how your family, your daughter, can be a part of that.