by Robert James Waller
I just re-read “The Bridges of Madison County,” don’t ask me why, I guess I just wanted to look into that theme again. I have seen the movie, too. I simply needed to reconnect with it and think about it again. I actually love this story. It’s not the healthiest outlook on life–secret adultery unknown to family until one dies and the children find the evidence–one wonders about the author; engaging, insightful, and untrusting, ha! Just my instinctive reaction to the story, but then, I’ve read it twice? Am I living vicariously through them, you wonder?
Let me give you a quick synopsis. It’s about a mid forties woman who longs to have chosen differently than being a farmer’s wife in the middle of a small town in Iowa. She is Italian, and was brought to The U.S. during her husband’s wartime stay in Naples. She meets this somewhat “drifter” who is more like her personality as he is artistic, creative, as she is, and they fall in love. That’s the first taboo, and I can’t help but admit I liked it. The part where they have so much in common, which sadly she does not have with her husband.
They have all of four days together, and he wants to tell her husband “sorry, this just happened, we are very much in love, and Francesca is leaving with me.” But she says “NO,” she cannot do that to her husband or her two children. She loves him terribly, but she does not want to leave a wreckage behind. So he leaves, they never come together again, and there is more but I’ll leave that to your reading.
I cried again. I have cried at the movie, cried when I first read it, and cried again. I cannot understand why we do the things we do, but this story was somewhat true (partly fictional of course, partly true), by reading letters, legal docs, etc. Or maybe it’s all fictional, and the author Robert James Waller, made it all up. Authors are creative geniuses, you know…
The author’s style of writing reminds me of the Tennessee Williams style: simple, warm, down-to-earth writing of middle America, and explaining how his characters get through his plot and their simple existence, but when it is needed he knows how to bring out the emotional guns, with words of bittersweet and desire.
I have been trying to re-read “the Catcher in the Rye,” but it isn’t happening for me right now. I had read recently “Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich, and that book made me cry, too. It’s theme was more the human condition, whereas “Bridges…” was more about the need for deep love and emotional and creative connection.
My main point for writing this review is for myself, because the author, Waller, really doesn’t need a review, as his book was a mega hit; see the movie. I wrote it because I just wanted to share my feelings about unrequited love, or love that cannot be. My heart went out to the husband as well, for he had no idea what went on inside his wife’s heart, but that was partly his own error, for he did not seem to know ANYTHING that was going on in his wife’s life except for her good cooking and caring for the household and the family.
Henceforth, she sought someone who would love her heart. It is an archetypal character who suffers in love; and the plot of being unable to remain with whom you love, but instead sacrificing for the right reasons of conventions, kindnesses to family, not to wreak havoc to those who would be left behind, and so forth. Nonetheless, the one who gives that love up is sacrificing a great deal, and somehow, they will never be the same whether it was the wife, or the husband.
That, folks, is the great tragedy; a very painful choice, and it is a sweet sadness. A good read, short, easy, finished it in that day.