It’s been a marathon couple of days submerging myself in the magic of the book and movie, “The Bridges of Madison County” written by Robert James Waller. I am not one to shed tears, but it’s been a ceaseless stream of tears and heartbreaking sobs as I revisit one of the most poignant tales of an Iowa housewife, Francesca Johnson, who falls in love with a wandering, handsome photographer,Robert Kincaid, within a matter of four days. Four days, you might wonder? Can people fall in love for a lifetime in four days? I say it might be possible if the stars are aligned just right and you have a heart that believes, truly believes in the magic of romance. For those that have not heard of this book, read it first before watching the movie. The book is a feast for your mind, with words that will tingle all parts of your body and set your heart afire with poignant messages. Then watch the movie and see the unexpected chemistry of Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. NOTE: You will understand why I couldn’t leave out the image of the truck viewed from the rain washed windshield of the car in the above slideshow after watching the movie!
I have never seen a more trite story become more visually enchanting through the words of Waller. The houswife, Francesca (played by Meryl Streep in the movie) has a midlife affair with our exotic, nomadic photographer Robert Kincaid (played by Clint Eastwood) for 4 days while her family is away at a fair. You may think, that’s all there is to the plot????? No other twists, turns, intricacies, plot surprises, suspense elements? A resounding “NO” follows, but oh how beautiful the story is and it remains in our hearts and minds long after the last words are uttered. There are so many quotable quotes and phrases and paragraphs that I had to place one whole page of them dedicated entirely to this book separately. The ending is bittersweet and I won’t give it away. What remains imprinted for me is how engrossed we get in the love of Francesca and Robert Kincaid. The story leaves us mesmerized with Robert Kincaid in a way that we truly want to believe that he existed in real life as a bona fide National Geographic photographer. Kincaid kept on referring to himself as the “last cowboy” and one of the best and most memorable quotes referring to his character was reflected in this : “I am the highway and the peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea”. A peregrine has many meanings and Kincaid symbolized all of them; the nomadic drifter always wanting to feel the road beneath his feet.
One article actually claimed that Kincaid remained so vivid and so interesting a character that National Geographic had to continuously deny the existence of this fictitional and famed photographer’s existence. Not only that, many wanted to see the issue of National Geographic which portrayed the romantic images of the covered bridges of Madison County. I myself fell in love with the idea of covered bridges after reading the book and watching the movie.
The whole movie can be summed up in this one phrase uttered by Francesca: “They (her husband and children) came home. And with them, my life of details.” We all want to sometimes move away from the day to day routine which becomes humdrum. Our life becomes unexciting and mundane. We seek for the metaphor of an exotic stranger who will sweep us away to lands far from the ordinary, someone who will whisper secret mysteries into our ears and tell us we are the most beautiful things that walked the celestial heavens and earth. We want four days and nights of magic where we can be stunning, desirable and irreplaceable in the eyes of some handsome stranger. If we leave with the stranger to those far, exotic lands, that life we left behind will haunt us and we may leave behind more pain and sorrow from our own actions.
The beauty of the book lies in the visual effect from the play of words. You see everything so vividly and experience it with Francesca and Kincaid. You feel their love, their unbreakable, timeless connection in the four days and this says it all in the letter from Kincaid to Francesca: “It’s clear to me now that I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. Though neither of us was aware of the other before we met, there was a kind of mindless certainty bumming blithely along beneath our ignorance that ensured we would come together. Like two solitary birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another.”
And in the end, this was something that Kincaid said that summed it all up for both of them. They had a love that endured, that was short lived, but felt throughout their lifetimes; a passionate yet secure kind of love that is rare. It’s the kind of love we all want to experience when Kincaid says : “In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”