The first time I read The Bridges of Madison County, I was probably no older than twelve. My mom had a copy of the book and I remember her going on and on and on about how wonderful it was. Already a voracious reader of books with subject matter that was far too advanced for my age group, I snagged it so I could see what all the hype was about. Once I was finished, my initial reaction was “Ewwwww.” A book about an old lady cheating with an even older dude that lived like a hippy? No thank you. Gross. Give me my Harlequin books back.
For years now, whenever I’ve heard anything about this book, or the subsequent movie that was made, a little sliver of revulsion ran through me due to remembering my experience with it when I was younger. This weekend, though, I decided to give it another shot. After all, I can’t go my whole life with an opinion on something that I formed when I was twelve, right?
So I borrowed it from the library via Kindle (since I don’t read actual books anymore.)
And I cried.
Bawled, actually. Sobbed like a moron.
Now, I’ll admit that the dialogue, especially Robert’s big speech right before he leaves Francesca for the last time, is absolutely ridiculous. It’s over-the-top, downright soap opera-style melodrama. But the part where Francesca learns that Robert had his ashes scattered at “their” bridge, just a few miles from her home? Oh God, I couldn’t contain the tears. And at the end, where Michael and Carolyn are learning about their mother’s grand love affair with Robert and are heartsick at what she gave up for them? Lawdy, the tears.
It’s obvious that I should never have read this book at such a young age. It’s not a surprise that my reaction was a simple “gross” because there’s no way I could have grasped the subject matter when I first read it. But as a grown woman in her thirties wo knows what marriage is and can be like and has endured the ups and downs? I totally get it. I understand why Francesca did what she did, and why she couldn’t go with Robert at the end. Yes, it tore me up, but I supported her decision, even though I knew it meant that she spent the rest of her life with a cloud of “what ifs” hanging over her.
So anyway, when someone mentions this book to me now, I no longer screw up my face in disgust and shake my head. In fact, I’m sure that I’ll get a little bit misty-eyed. Just goes to show that sometimes in life, we have to revisit what we think we know about something because we might be surprised with what we find!