|Book Reveiw 6-8
Sunday, May 13, 2007
by Denise Turney
The Bridges of Madison County is a classic. The book is not old in the way readers often think of a classic; the book is a classic because the book is excellent. James Waller knows the path a rich romance takes. He knows that romantic love is not always simple or uncomplicated. These attributes are amongst The Bridges of Madison County’s strongest good points. It begins with the seemingly obvious differences between the story’s main characters. There’s Francesca Johnson, an Iowa farm wife, who gave up the pursuit of passionate romance years ago when she left Italy and the memory of the first man who stirred her heart. Francesca has since learned to become a wife who dotes upon her husband, a passionless, faithful and hard working man who loves the outdoors, and their two children, a boy and a girl. Francesca has even taken her dreams of being a school teacher and put them somewhere in the past because her husband, Richard, does not want her to work outside their home. He wants his wife at home on the farm with their children.
Richard is kind and dependable. He simply seems unable to express his affections for his wife. He does things like keep up the farm, work and take their children on trips, to show his love for his family. He is not one to say “I love you” or to embrace his family warmly. If they want to know if he loves them, they should watch what he does and look at how hard he works. But it is not enough. Francesca and her children, as they discover when they become adults and marry themselves, need to feel loved and hear a person tell them that they love them.
Francesca is the one who does this in the family, but she is famished for passion and romance herself. Hard work, a thing Francesca engages in with a great deal of familiarity, is not enough. Hence the second main character, Robert Kincaid, a man who is a world class photographer and who freelances for National Geographic, one of the longest lasting and most rewarding jobs Robert will hold. Robert is a free spirit. He seems to go wherever the wind takes him. One summer’s day his unhinged journey takes him to the farm Richard and Francesca live on and tend to.
This poignant romantic love story has been adapted into a major motion picture. A line at the end of the book does a remarkable job of summing up the message in the story, and it reads, “In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you life.”
It is this very passionate certainty that Francesca distances herself from. In its place she returns to caring for her family while she disowns her own feelings, her own dreams. Or so it seems that Francesca has forfeited the romance and passion she shared with Robert Kincaid, four days in the summer while her husband and children were out of town at the county fair. For written in Francesca’s funeral arrangements is the request to have her ashes released across one of the bridges in Madison County, the place where she guided Robert Kincaid, when he pulled inside her family’s driveway one summer’s day in search of the old covered bridge he came to Iowa to photograph for National Geographic.
The Bridges of Madison County is one of the most taut and well written books I have read. Its emotional pull is unmistakable. It is no wonder it has become a favorite amongst book lovers of all genres. Readers may be inspired to revisit their own dreams after reading this moving and emotionally gripping book.
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