I am a fan of love stories, which should be obvious based on the number of Nora Roberts’ books I’ve read. But while I appreciate happy-ever-afters, I absolutely adore stories like this one by Robert James Waller.
A quick run through (and a mini-spoiler): it is about two people who met and fell in love late in their lives. Francesca was a 44-year-old housewife and mother of two who buried her dreams of adventure and tried to content herself with a quiet life in the country. Robert was a 52-year-old photographer who “watches the light” and who both enjoys the freedom and feels the loneliness of the life of a wanderer. They met and fell in love in four days. And that’s all the time they spent with each other; they parted ways and never saw each other again after that.
It’s the kind of novel that pulls the heartstrings. In the conversation between them when Robert was trying to convince Francesca to go with him, hopeless romantics might find themselves frustrated with her refusal. I, however, think that this is one of the most human and realistic portions of a story as unrealistic as this (come on, four days? Four days?) and one of the most defining moments in the novel.
Yes, at the end of her life, Francesca thought about Robert.But she chose to stay. She chose to give more value to her children, her husband, and the life that her family gave her. And Robert respected her wishes. He remained alone and loved only Francesca until he died, but never did he force her to change her mind. She knew that she loved Robert more than anyone, yet she chose to channel that love to her family. He knew that Francesca is his it, yet he chose to stay away.
This, I think, shows that Francesca and Robert loved each other best.
See, I’ve always believed that love is just a word. It is what people do that gives it power and meaning. And there is no word that has been given more power on a daily basis that love. Love has the ability to show the best and the worst of people; it can magnify the strengths and failings as well a highlight the depth of human character.
I am not going so far the cliched “loving means letting go” road. I’m thinking more along the lines of love being a choice. You choose the people you fall in love with and you choose the people you make a life with. It is just unfortunate that for some people, they aren’t the same.
And that, I think, is the main point of the novel. For me, what can be learned from Francesca and Robert is this: choose. And once you’ve chosen, live with it as best as you can so as you can look back at the end of your life and not regret that decision.
In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.
– Robert to Francesca