Sometime in my late teens, I read a book that ’til date, is one of my favourite books ever written: The Bridges of Madison Country.
It’s written by Robert James Waller and it’s a moving story about two people, Richard and Francesca, who spend only four days together, but continue to love each other until they both die.
When I read the book as a teen, it left me sad. I wished they had been able to be together for longer (read ‘forever’). I wished Francesca had damned it all (her marriage, her family) and taken a chance on true love. I wished when she told Richard if he put her over his shoulders and carried her to his truck, she wouldn’t stop him, he had done just that.
I wished when she tried to find him after her husband died, she had succeeded. I reread the book (and saw the movie, I beg of you, please ask me all the ways in which the movie gets the story wrong, I’m just dying to talk about it) a couple of days ago and it still made me sad, but not as sad as the first time.
This time around, I found myself thinking that maybe Robert and Francesca needed to get only the four days for their love story to remain the perfect love story. Any longer and their rationalisations might have been proven true and they would have grown to resent each other. Any longer, and they would have regretted it. Any longer, and they wouldn’t have loved each other until death.
The world is turning my hopeless romantic self into a cynic, I hate it! Anyhow, what I never would have imagined the first time I read the book, is that someday I would get the chance to actually see the bridges of Madison County. Not the movie, no, the actual bridges, in the actual county of Madison.
I spent last weekend in Des Moines, and I got to go to Madison County because it is less than an hour’s drive away from Des Moines. Madison County is the covered bridge capital of Iowa, with the largest group of covered bridges that exists in one area in the western half of the Mississippi Valley.
Thanks to the book, and the movie, the bridges of Madison County are now pretty famous around the world. Unfortunately Roseman Bridge, which is the ‘main bridge’ of the story was burned down by some troublesome boys, but I did get to visit Holliwell and Hogback bridge, which both get a mention.
Also, if you read the book and enjoyed it, there’s a sequel, it’s called A Thousand Country Roads.