I have read many books by Nicholas Sparks over the years. The Last Song was the first of Sparks’ novels that I read almost a decade ago. I loved it back then, so I was excited to re-read it. The story is set in North Carolina over one summer. Ronnie (Veronica) along with her younger brother Jonah, is sent to spend the summer with her father forcefully by their mother.
Ronnie and her dad have an estranged relationship. Her mom forced her to spend the summer with him, otherwise, she had no intention of leaving New York City. Ronnie is 17 and behaves in a typical teenage way and goes out of her way to avoid her dad, Steve. She is musically talented just like her dad, and he wishes for her to go to Julliard. She blames him for the divorce. She doesn’t agree. Jonah on the other hand, is excited to spend time with his dad. Ronnie meets a local boy Will on the beach randomly when he dashes into her and makes her spill her drink over herself.
Slowly, Ronnie starts enjoying her time in North Carolina with Will and her family. As the story progresses, you can see the change in Ronnie’s character. Her attitude toward people around her improves, and she cherished her time with them. Ronnie and Will start dating and have a cute relationship. His family is rich, and they don’t exactly approve of Ronnie and expect Will to listen to them. Their relationship builds realistically and they do seem right for each other. The other minor characters around Ronnie’s age are interesting but didn’t like them much.
The story focuses on Ronnie’s family and their dynamics. Her relationship with her dad is strained. In the beginning, he seems nice, but his character also changes throughout the novel. He takes genuine efforts with both of his kids, getting to know them again and trying to be friends with them. For every girl, the relationship she has with her father is something, that shapes her, and it is a different bond. Ronnie and Steve’s father-daughter relationship is beautifully portrayed, and it never fails to tug at your heartstrings. I am glad that this novel focuses more on the family, and the romance is important and done well, but it’s almost a subplot.
The way the story begins and where it is at the end is a beautiful journey. All the characters go through challenges, grief, and lessons over the summer, which changes them, and those arcs are wonderful. The book did make me cry just as much as it did back then. The ending is bittersweet. The main theme of the novel is family and estranged relationships. Both of the kids have barely seen their father for three years, and Ronnie is mad at him for the divorce and spent alienating herself from both parents. Slowly and steadily, the relationships reconcile, and everyone forgives each other. It is nice that Steve was able to build such long and lasting bonds with his kids over the summer before he passes away.
The Last Song is a beautiful family drama that has good characters and an interesting story. The main draw for me though remains the relationships Ronnie has with each of the other characters and her character arc. The story is sad, romantic, and dramatic in equal measure. I finished reading it in like three days.
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