March 10, 2017 was a sad day in the literary world. Two great writer’s died: Richard Wagamese and Robert James Waller. Both authors have had an impact on my life, and I’d like to honour these two men by telling you a little about them.
ROBERT JAMES WALLER:
Bridges of Madison County. Who hasn’t heard of this book/movie? I have a very clear memory of reading this book. I was sitting in the kitchen when I got to the part where Francesca is sitting in her husband’s truck, while Robert Kincaid (the man she’s had an affair with. Though affair seems like a tawdry word for the love they share) is in his truck in front of them waiting at the stop light. Her hand reaches for the door handle. It flexes and shifts. She wants to go to Robert so badly — this man with whom she spent a mere four days with — because he is her soul, her life. But she knows that if she does, it will hurt her husband, a man who, though he doesn’t understand her, is a good man who doesn’t deserve such pain. But still, we wait, hoping she’ll go to Robert. He is the kind of man that women long for: strong, sensitive, and he listens to Francesca’s dreams and shares her tastes in music. And even though we read this scene a thousand time, we still hope that the end will be different. But it isn’t, and she does what she knows she must.
I cried so hard when I read this. My heart was broken along with Francesca’s. Robert Waller’s writing was so sensitive to the man Robert Kincaid. I always felt that Robert James Waller and Robert Kincaid were the same man. He wrote it from the heart in such an honest authentic way, and in 11 days no less.
I still have a copy of this book on my book shelf, along with the sequel A Thousand Country Roads where Robert travels the country backroads on his way back to Madison County. I got to spent time with this lovely man who still longs to be with Francesca, hoping against hope that they would reconnect. It is written in the same heartfelt style as Bridges and although Francesca doesn’t get to spent time with Robert, I did. And despite the heartache, I’d go there again because it feels like home.
I came across Richard Wagamese’s book Medicine Walk quite by accident. I was at a writing retreat at Five Oaks Retreat Centre in Paris Ontario, and while wandering around in their lovely bookstore, came across a copy of his book on the counter while I was checking out. After reading the back cover, something about the writing touched me, and I had to have a copy of his book. I also seem to recall that Wagamese had done a talk about his book at the retreat centre and I wished I had known about it, because I would have driven the 2 ½ hours it takes to get there to hear his words.
Here is another writer who writes from the heart. He writes honestly about the native experience – his native experiences, which were not exactly happy. He was taken away from his family and adopted out by Children’s Aid, and spent time living on the streets. Yet he was able to rise above all that and become a wonderful writer, but more than that, he became a good man who cared about others, and tried to change the negative things in his life into something positive.
As I reflect on these two men, the thing they have in common that drew me to their books is their authenticity. The courage to write from the heart of who they are, whether it is to dip into their own life experience and put it out there, or simply write from an authentic place. That is how I want to write – how I try to write every day. And so in this way, they will always be remembered by me, and I’m sure by many who have read their books, and seen their heart.
Just to get you started, I’m going to share a few of the books by these two wonderful authors:
BOOKS BY ROBERT JAMES WALLER:
The Bridges of Madison Country
A Thousand Country Roads.
Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend.
High Plains Tango.
BOOKS BY RICHARD WAGAMESE:
One Native Life.