Love means never having to say you’re dead.
Sparks (The Best of Me, 2011, etc.) fans know the drill: sweetness and light, darkness and despair, kissing and making up. And always, always, intertwining storylines. Got the template? Here, Sparks opens with a grim scene that soon turns as sappy as a maple: Old Ira Levinson (there’s a signal there) has driven off the road in black ice and snow, and now he’s feeling, as he says, “the Grim Reaper tapping my shoulder.” Now, it stands to reason that up there in the Southern highlands, a tow truck is likely to arrive less expeditiously than the nearest friendly ghost, in this case, that of Ira’s beloved wife, Ruth. If you’ve seen that Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore movie, you’ll know how this part works. But Ira isn’t just any old Southern Jew expiring in the cold: He’s had a hobby that’s morphed into a grail. Exit stage right; enter Sophia and Luke. Sophia’s a sorority sweetie with a brawler of a boyfriend whom she’s trying to ditch, and Luke is the cowboy hero who comes loping along to save the day. But let Sparks explain: “The cowboy’s words were clear and slow, as if he were addressing a dimwit.” Indeed. Well, bad boyfriend is conflict No. 1, and Luke’s nerves are conflict No. 2, especially when it comes to a session with the monster bull of his darkest dreams. All that remains to be done is to lasso these two couples together, jerk some tears: “My plea to you is this: despite your sadness, do not forget how happy you have made me; do not forget that I loved a man who loved me in return, and this was the greatest gift I could ever have hoped to receive.” To which, in cowboy-speak, the proper reply is: “Aw, shucks.”
Just the sort of thing for Sparks buffs.