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Nicholas Sparks’ first Jewish love story

Novel machine Nicholas Sparks’ latest is probably not at all a cross between “Driving Miss Daisy” and his bestseller “The Notebook,” but you can’t blame us for thinking it might read that way.

“The Longest Ride” opens with Ira Levinson, a 91-year-old southern Jew, who we find trapped in his car after an accident, speaking to his deceased wife Ruth.

The story follows their romance, which begins, when at 16, Ruth, the child of European refugees, meets Ira, the child of a North Carolina haberdasher.

Anyone familiar with Sparks’ work knows this is not his first love story. That said, it is his first love story with Jewish protagonists.

“It was something I hadn’t done before and I thought people would like it,” the Catholic-born author told The Forward. “Also, not a lot of people know there are Jewish people in the South. We all know there are a lot of Jewish people in New York and other big cities. Not a lot of people realize how prominent they are in the history of the South. New Bern is the home of the first synagogue in North Carolina.”

The character of Ira is based on the Jewish man Sparks’ grandmother dated after her divorce.

“They went to Israel together, they had lunch together. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we’d vacation in San Diego and stay at Grandma’s house. I became very close to him. He was almost like a grandfather to me,” Sparks says.

Aw, okay, so now that we know what it’s all about we can totally move past the “Driving Miss Daisy” thing and start predicting who will play young Ira and Ruth when this thing gets turned into a movie, which is inevitable, obviously. Ideas, anyone?

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