About a week back, I finished reading ‘A thousand country roads’ by Robert James Waller, the sequel to ‘The bridges of Madison County’ by the same author, a book I absolutely adored. This post is about my reading experience.
Note: Plot revealed
Well, I found the sequel good too in the sense that it is as well-written as the original book, but somehow it does not quite measure up to it in terms of the impact that it leaves on the reader. I found the storyline a bit too unreal (read typically Bollywood movie style). Nevertheless, it did leave me with a good feeling when I finished it. And it did make me fall in love with Robert Kincaid, all over again. Robert Kincaid – a perfect gentleman, sensitive, romantic, creative, extremely passionate about life, a great photographer and writer, and an immense lover of travel. In short, a wonderful character. 🙂
‘The Bridges of Madison County’ has been narrated from the viewpoint of Francesca Johnson, wife of a country farmer. A misfit in the rough country life of Madison County, a lady who loves literature and fine arts, she falls for Robert Kincaid – photographer-writer for the National Geographic. They find that they are soulmates, perfect fits for each other. They spend four days together – the most beautiful four days of their lives, at the end of which they part ways. Not because they don’t love each other, but because Francesca feels bound by her duty towards her husband, Richard. It was the character of Robert Kincaid that left me feeling sad when I read ‘The Bridges of Madison County’.
‘A thousand country roads’ has been narrated from the viewpoint of Robert Kincaid. In between, there are snippets from Francesca Johnson’s life. Robert Kincaid recounts his life story, from his youth to the time he met Francesca, and then beyond, to when he lived alone and lonely, with a dog called Highway. He goes back to Madison County one last time to see the covered bridges, which were instrumental in making him meet Francesca. In the course of this journey, he meets Wynne, a lady with whom he had a casual fling in his youth. He still remembers Wynne, but he knows he would not be able to love anyone else quite the same way as he loved Francesca. He recounts their days together with Wynne, and discovers that they have a son named Carlisle. Both Wynne and Robert have not been able to keep in touch, as they have been traveling – Wynne because she is a nomadic musician at heart and Robert because he is a traveling photographer cum writer. Carlisle has been trying to locate his biological father, and they meet up just in time before Robert breathes his last. So, in the end, Robert Kincaid discovers that he has not been alone all his life. Though there apparently are a lot of imperfections in Robert Kincaid’s life, he has been depicted as the perfect gentleman.
And, this book too left me with a lot of questions. Maybe, I’ll come up with them some time later. As of now, I leave you with a couple of events from the book that I loved:
Robert Kincaid’s thoughts when he is on a beach with Wynne when he is young, where they chance upon an elephant seal, a creature quite rare to spot in those parts:
From twenty feet, the brown eyes showed clearly in the lens. They were looking directly at me, a look of fear or at least a wary inquisitiveness as I tried to crouch and find a good angle. I began to sort through the feelings I’ve always had about disrupting the lives of other living things with my intrusions, and, clearly, the woman and I had intruded upon a peaceful moment that could have done without us.
Wouldn’t the world be a much better place to live in if we all thought this way?
His thoughts on traveling:
From the beginning, and I see it clearly in these days, my work in photography was partly a passion and partly an excuse for traveling. And yet I’ve seen a hundred places – more than that, probably – where I wished I had a separate life for each of them so I could settle down and live there, so I could get to know some people well, as others have done, as most have done. I could have run a general store in that dusty little hill-side town in eastern New Mexico; joined the ashram in Pondicherry, India; or opened a garage in a mountain town in southwest Texas or raised sheep in the Pyrenees or become a fisherman in some Mexican beach village.
That more than spells out his tremendous passion for traveling, innit?
His thoughts on his loneliness:
When you were reading beneath a yellow evening lamp and wondering about the far places and maybe wishing to visit them, places where I’ve been dozens of times, I was passing by your window and wishing just the opposite. I was wishing for your chair and your lamp, your family and your friends. …… yielding to my great flaw of always pushing on and never looking back, never feeling an emptiness for that which I had left behind, except for the woman, I forsook the lamps of home and chose the road. The consequences are of my own making, and I have no right to lament what I brought upon myself.
Sad, sad, sad…
In short, this book is definitely worth a read, but when compared to ‘The bridges of Madison County’, it does fall short a notch. I didn’t feel it is a book of endings as it claims to be – I thought the original book itself was pretty well ended. It only adds to the story and the personality of Robert Kincaid.
Song for the occasion:
Musafir hoon, yaaron,
Na ghar hai na thikana,
Mujhe chalte jaana hai
Bas chalte jaana…