Throwback Thursday [7]: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

IMG_7606 GOODREADS SUMMARY | Warner Books | Hardcover, 171 pages | Publication Date: April 13, 1992 | Adult Fiction | Romance | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


I’ve never seen the film. I’ve never had the interest to read this book. Buoyed by the thought that I could probably read it one sitting, I decided to forge on ahead. All I can say is, wow. 

Robert James Waller was able to reach me in ways I cannot express. It was in the way he made me feel like I’ve been reading my books wrong all along. When an author tells you that words have taste, and when he tells you that you’re looking at the world in general all wrong, you need to start paying attention.

It was in the way he immortalized Robert Kincaid; a photographer who saw the world with a different set of eyes.

“Eventually, he began to see that light was what he photographed, not objects. The objects merely were the vehicles for reflecting the light.”

 It was the artist in him that gave me the impression that he felt more; saw more.

“He liked words and images. “Blue” was one of his favourite words. He liked the feeling it made on his lips and tongue when he said it. Words have physical feeling, not just meaning, he remembered thinking when he was young.”

He was a simple man; a traveled, worldly man who saw the changing world as something that he could never be a part of. He is a part of a dying species so rare that to know him is more than an honour.

There is a wildness in him that you can’t tame. A need to be free, that to anchor him to one place would be criminal.

“Don’t you see? I love you so much that I cannot think of restraining you for a moment. To do that would be to kill the wild, magnificent animal that is you, and the power would die with it.”

Robert James Waller also introduced me to a love story that was destined but yet, it wasn’t meant to be. It was as if Francesca and Robert waited all their lives to fall in love. And when they did, it was the kind that consumed them whole. They became two halves of a new entity. Not partly Francesca, not partly Robert.

“Well, we’re really not inside of that being. We are that being. We have both lost ourselves and created something else, something that exists only as an interlacing of the two of us. Christ, we’re in love. As deeply, as profoundly, as it’s possible to be in love.”

I’ve always complained about the impossibility of love at first sight; how incredulous it is. I am the cynic who thought it ludicrous. But after reading this book, I’ve gained a different perspective. It could happen. But it takes a certain kind of writer; someone who is wholly attuned to the cruel beauty of falling in love. Someone who knows how to write an impossible love story and will not apologize if it doesn’t end well. A writer who can persuade a reader through their words that no, it’s not impossible. If you find a writer like that, I suggest you hoard their books. Because you and I both know that I’ve never been a fan of adultery or cheating; nor would I try to convince you to read this book knowing that it features a couple of characters who disregard the dictates of time when it comes to falling in love.

Much of the not-so-good reviews for this book jeered that Waller lauded adultery, and that there is no excuse for cheating whatsoever. While I tend to agree on the latter, that is not the case for the former. I say, if you’re hung up on the adultery in this book, then you’ve missed the point entirely. It is not about that. It is about a couple of people who had fallen in love when they least expected it. It is about what they chose to do knowing that they’re two adults who’d been given the chance to be happy together? Or be responsible and live apart? Francesca and Robert did that in a matter of days – a week. But the love they had lasted a lifetime.

“In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”

They never saw each other again after that week, nor did they attempt to contact each other since. But in their hearts, their souls, their minds, theirs was the forever kind.