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.

  • I read this when it came out, which was a long time ago. I think I remember finding him a much more compelling character than her…

  • Buona

    I remember falling asleep while watching this, but I was really very young and had zero interest in old couples. Now that I’m in my thirties, maybe I’ll reach for the book. Thanks for the throwback. I’m with you on your stance on adultery though. No, no, no…with very few exceptions at the hand of a talented writer.

    • Hahah! I haven’t seen the movie yet. But I’m a little scared that Clint Eastwood will disappoint as Robert Kincaid. 🙂

  • Oh my. I had no idea what this book (and the movie, by extension) was about! I’d had no interest, for no reason, in it, but you’ve told me I probably do. 🙂 Those snippets you included are just fabulous. Great review Joy!

    • I seriously had to restrict myself as I was writing the review. There were so many awesome things I wanted to talk about. 🙂

      Thanks, Rachel!

  • I read this after The Notebook and wasn’t swept away by the story as much. It felt flat to me although I did like the whole theme and seizing the opportunity thingamajig. Also imagining Clint Eastwood as the hero is so unappealing LOL

    • That’s exactly how I feel about watching the film thereafter! I don’t want my image of Robert Kincaid befuddled by Clint Eastwood! I’m glad I haven’t watched the film yet. Lol!

  • I saw the movie! But that was a looong time ago and I can’t remember anything about it. Was Meryl Streep in it?

    I don’t approve of cheating but you know, it happens. And since I can say with conviction that I will never cheat, then the only way I’ll gain a cheater’s perspective is through a well-written book like this one. So yeah, I’ll check this out. Awesome review, Joy. 🙂

    • 🙂 Yes, Miss Meryl was in it.

      I feel the same about adultery. But this one was so wonderfully written that I wasn’t able to focus on that.

      thanks, Joy!

  • I *think* I watched the movie way-back-when, but don’t ask me to recap it because I have a horrible memory for stuff like that. I’m happy that you finally found the time to knock this book off your TBR pile, and it more than lived up to its reputation. Have a great weekend, Joy!

  • Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    I haven’t watched the movie or read the book, but you certainly have me curious about it. It is fantastic to see that the author captured you like he did.

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    • I was stunned. It was my first Waller. So now I’m trying to find more of his books. I just hope they’re just as beautifully written.

      Thanks for stopping by, Naomi!

  • I have not read the book, but the movie was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
    “Robert James Waller also introduced me to a love story that was destined but yet, it wasn’t meant to be.” The writing sounds wonderful –

    • Oh it is. One of the best, for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

  • The love at first sight is so debatable

    • True enough. But this author is highly convincing!

  • I haven’t even heard of this book… or movie. Oh God! What kind of a rock I stay under? Great review, Joy! 🙂

    • Oh my. That was an Oscar-winning movie! You definitely have to watch that, at least!

  • Eek. I love this review of yours Joy. <3 I'm so so glad you ended up loving this book. It looks all kinds of interesting 🙂 Thank you for sharing about it sweetie. <3 WAIT. They were only together for a week, and then never again? 🙁 I do not approve, lol. But the love to sound awesome. Just, not for me, lol 😀

    • Yes. Unfortunately, it was one of those one-week affair that somehow lasted their lifetimes. I supposed that was a spoiler, wasn’t it? Oops. Lol!

      • LOL 😀 I don’t mind it being a spoiler. <3 I'm so glad you said it, because it made me not ever going to read this book, lol 🙂 As it was something that I needed to know about it.

  • Omg this book sounds beautiful Joy, I’ve never heard of this book before, but I love the sound of Robert and Francesca’s story. Thank you for putting this on my radar!

    • It’s a fast read, Jas. I think you’ll have no problem getting through it just fine. It was a beautiful love story, indeed!

  • I haven’t read this but I did absolutely love the movie and I normally hate any kind of cheating but their story was such a beautiful one that I couldn’t help but love it.

    • I am not searching everywhere for a copy of the movie. Even though I’m a little wary…