Books come and go. There are endless options, genres, and many readers dub as 'favorites.' I have few favorites, but many I enjoy talking about and often recommend. It wasn't until a recent trip to a secondhand shop that my eyes grazed over the title 'The Bridges of Madison County' by Robert James Waller. It sounded familiar, the description sounded good, and so I added it to my pile and went on my way.
I've been diving into some non-fiction works recently, namely fascinated with Eleanor Roosevelt, someone whom I've heard myself saying I admire, but realizing I didn't truly know enough about her to rightly say such a thing. And so I began checking out books about her until I came to her autobiography. A brilliant lady. One of a kind, truly. It's a slower read for me, however. As much as I enjoy it, it is long, and I felt like reading a few short books in the process would be ok.
At this point, my third small novel since I began the autobiography, came The Bridges of Madison County. I hadn't thought much about it, but grabbed it anyway. As soon as I began I grew fascinated with Robert Kincaid's character. A combat photographer turned traveling photographer for National Geographic, he spoke directly to my photographer heart. As it went on, his character morphed into not just a man who travels and takes photographs for a magazine, but something else altogether. He's brilliant, a depth not of this world, and his fluidity through life is enchanting.
There were many parts of the story that were simply beautiful, but others that were short and dropped off, a tiny heartbreak at what could of been from that. I wondered what the author was doing in moments like that. I wondered if this would be a 3 out of 5 stars when I finished and logged in to Goodreads. Ha! But as I read past the mid-section of the book, I delved into the brief, but beautiful relationship of Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid.
The characters are so real, raw, and beautiful. I couldn't help but be drawn into them in an irrevocable way that took me out of my own world and into theirs. There's no wonder this story was created into a film (that I have yet to see for the first time) and loved by many. I feel almost thankful that others saw the same beauty out of Robert Waller's words that I did. Some surely must have felt it too.
The scene where Francesca was entertaining Robert in their first dinner together at her farm house, she was fearful of setting the wrong mood and eventually turned to two candlesticks he helped her light. The scene was recreated once more in the story, and the warmth and intimacy of that was so encapsulating that I wanted to get out two candlesticks and recreate it in my own world right then. The slow way that the two became irrevocably intertwined was written with such delicacy and in a way that makes you weak in the knees.
By the last quarter of the book, I couldn't put it down, I was determined to finish this love story. I had to find out just how it ended, and I feel grateful to the author for not cutting us short like so many do. It's heart wrenching and beautiful all at the same time, it makes you want to fling yourself into their love affair, to feel such depth, and to speak such beautiful words to someone who not only understands but feels them! The reactions of her children to this secret part of their mother's life and who she was, was undoubtedly another unforgettable scene. As they read her words together, I loved how that was near reminiscent of Robert and Francesca all those years ago, and they, of course, didn't even know it.
I took a full breath as I came to the end and closed the book. I felt so much through it all, and how real it all was! I look forward to watching the movie and can't recommend this otherworldly, once-in-a-lifetime love affair of a novel to all readers.