Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Skirt: Forever 21
Bag: Princess Vera, Kohl's
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's
*Please see the below post for the Introduction to this epic post series. Or, if you stumbled upon this post while wandering the wilds of the internet and have no way of navigating this blog (if that's a thing; I'm not sure, crafts are my wheelhouse, not code), then click here.
Relax; you've hit the sweet spot. Sugar is the first stop in this series, so what better way to kick it off than with candy? I got these retro-licious, circus-slash-carnival-looking candy appliques from kawaii jewelry supply super seller Delish Beads and added them to some colorful bows. Are they hard candies? Or taffies? Who knows? Either way, they do kind of sort of resemble something that a Nicholas Sparks hero might bring to his sweetheart. You know. If Sparks sagas had a campy, Willy Wonka-meets-Shopkins type vibe.
If you know Sparks, then you know that he's sugary, penning the kind of saccharine, read-it-and-weep stuff that sends most men in search of the nearest Home Depot or Hooters. Being a sucker for such fare, I've read everything he's ever written, even his nonfiction memoir Three Weeks With My Brother. He releases a new title every other fall, and the husband always gets me the latest for Christmas. This year I was happy to learn that old Pepe Le Pew had published Two by Two just one year after See Me. Like See Me (which was a bit of a thriller), Two by Two is edgier than Sparks's previous stories. It's about a guy named Russ who gets divorced and is forced to fight for custody of his five-year-old daughter. Which is no surprise considering that Sparks himself recently made things officially unofficial with his wife of 26 years.
That said, there are shades of Sparks that are less than sweet in this novel. And it's not just because both he and his alter ego called it quits on marriage. In the real world, guys -- even troubadours -- get divorced. It's because of Russ's slightly controlling, chauvinistic attitude toward his wife. Vivian is a classically beautiful shopaholic who drops out of the PR rat race to be a stay-at-home mom. She enjoys wine, reality TV, and yoga, and she doesn't eat sugar. To be fair, Russ says that Vivian is a wonderful mother, not to mention a more dedicated parent than he is (well, except for one no-wire-hangers-ever moment and a new job that uproots their lives, both of which seem melodramatic and out-of-character for the generally level-headed if cliche-riddled Viv). But Russ also complains that she lets her "chores" slip, whining that he "doesn't like a messy house," and going all Scrooge when she spends a little too much at -- gasp -- Walmart. Although this neat freak cheapo chump makes appearances throughout the Sparks canon, he's more fully realized here, so much so that I can't help but wonder if Sparks himself is the kind of guy who runs his finger over mantles in search of dust and expects women to spend an eternity in last season's shoes. One thing's for sure; he wouldn't take too kindly to our spice and dice representatives, in-your-face funny lady Amy Schumer and free-spirited spendthrift Rebecca Bloomwood (but more on them later). Can it be that Mr. Sensitive is actually a (and the romantic in me cringes to type this) misogynist? It's a weighty question, and one that shakes my belief in not only Sparks, but in fiction. You see, I've always put a lot of stock in the Mark Twain quote "fiction is the truth inside the lie," which is to say that I think of writers as truth tellers, wise souls who have valuable information to impart about life. But Two by Two forces me to admit that they -- or, at least some of them --- aren't Yoda-esque messengers at all, but agenda-toting hucksters pedaling shoddy goods.
Now that I've aired my hostilities, I feel okay saying that I still like Sparks's writing. Fascist or not, he has a way with words, managing to make the minutiae of everyday life not only interesting, but a little bit charmed. Which is hokey, sure, but nowhere near as bad as saying that you watch "The Bachelor" for the cinematography. (To be clear, I do not watch "The Bachelor." Unless you count that SNL parody where all of the contestants sidle up to Beard Hunk and theatrically purr, "Mmm, I like this."). To that end, Two by Two is worth reading (and blogging about) despite, or perhaps because of, its need to be read through a more feminist lens.
So, here's to enjoying the journey without drinking the Kool-Aid. Or, in this case, sweet tea.