In Robert James Waller’s The Bridges Of Madison County, Robert Kincaid dies before he and Francesca Johnson, who eventually also dies, can get a reunion. They die having spent no more than a couple of days together, but loving each other until their deaths. A bittersweet love story.
They loved each other, never saw each other again. And they both died. What could possibly warrant a sequel? Well, the in-between; how they continued to be in love with each other, without each other. In A Thousand Country Roads, Waller takes us on a journey of almost happy endings, maybe the closest we’ll get.
In A Thousand Country Roads, we learn that before her death, after her husband’s, Francesca would take regular walks to Roseman Bridge, a prominent feature in her and Robert’s love story, and on one such walk, they miss each other by mere minutes. They almost get a reunion.
We also learn that Robert Kincaid, on his sojourns, spends a couple of days with another woman, Wynn MacMillan. He does not love her, does not have feelings for her nearly as strong as he continues to have for Francesca. But they do conceive a son; a son Robert does not know about until a few months before his death.
The story then becomes about his son, Carlisle MacMillan, trying to find him.
I found myself on the edge of my seat as I wondered if they would ever meet, or if their meeting would be amiss like Robert and Francesca’s near-reunion. I heaved an audible sigh of relief when they did meet. They shared a couple of days of conversation, an embrace or two, a handshake, a promise for father to visit son in better weather…. And that was it. Because Robert died before he could see his son again.
Life is finite. That is what I find myself thinking as I put the book down. Life is finite, as are our relationships with our loved ones, and the time we have with them. I think that’s what Robert James Waller reminds us in both The Bridges Of Madison County and A Thousand Country Roads.
About the Writer
Munukayumbwa (Mimi) Mwiya was born in November 1989 in Windhoek, Namibia. She works for a women’s rights organisation in Windhoek, and sometimes in her spare time, writes.
Mimi has been published in the German magazine, D+C where she speaks about literature in Namibia in an article titled, “Finding A Nation’s Voice”. She has been a contributor to the Afridiaspora maiden anthology, “My Africa, My City,” and regularly contributes to firstcultureng.com.