A Thousand Country Roads
by Robert James Waller
John M. Hardy Publishing
With simple yet moving prose, Robert James Waller weaves together a touching story that tells readers what happened to Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson after their passionate, yet ill-fated affair in The Bridges of Madison County. In A Thousand Country Roads Kincaid initially finds himself with little but memories -- memories of a lonely existence lived mostly on the road and memories of Francesca Johnson, the woman whose passion he stirred so briefly and with such power. So, with his memories pushing him, searching for something undefined, something to give meaning to the rest of his life, Kincaid takes to the road again in what becomes a journey of discovery and surprise. A Thousand Country Roads explores the struggles of love, hope, disappointment, and loneliness – everyday issues, which touch us all. The discussion questions included in this guide will encourage readers to explore both the literary elements and the complex issues in this compelling new book.
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1. Was Robert Kincaid clinically depressed at the beginning of the novel? If so, how had his state of mind changed toward the end of the story?
2. Robert Kincaid essentially lived a life alone, sacrificing family and relationships. Why do you think he chose this kind of existence? Was his choice a good one or a bad one?
3. When Kincaid returned to Roseman Bridge, he did not try to contact Francesca, but merely chose to "stand in her space again." Were his reasons for not looking her up admirable or cowardly? Realistic and honorable, or demonstrating denial and avoidance?
4. Given what we know about the states of mind of Francesca and Robert 16 years after their four-day affair, had their relationship truly been the "defining moment" for each--the "one great love" of a lifetime—or a simply a comfortable illusion/delusion?
5. What drove Robert Kincaid, on his return trip, to seek the woman he had earlier seen at the photography gallery in Mendocino?
6. How do you explain Carlisle McMillan's apparent maturity, self-possession, and goodness, given his atypical, fatherless upbringing?
7. Are people in their fifties, sixties and beyond capable of passion?
8. If Francesca had had her life to live over again, would she have gone with Robert in the earlier novel? If so, how would the lovers' lives have been different?
9. Who was the hero/heroine of this novel? Why?
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"Passing years make crossing these Bridges sweeter...Waller is a serious writer who wrestles with the big issues. Death. Aging. Loneliness. The inevitable humiliations that physical frailty brings. And the fact that choosing one road in life means you sacrifice the pleasures and satisfactions that another path would have brought..now I understand why all those millions of people loved Waller's The Bridges of Madison County and probably will find pleasure in A Thousand County Roads."
"After 10 long yeras, Robert James Waller takes us back to
Bridges -- and it's worth the trip...Don't worry: Waller has not burned his Bridges. His gift is what it is: he writes about tough men and tough women with tough rows to hoe, characters just human enough to believe in and just godlike enough to fantasize about. And credit where credit is due, it works. Waller calls it 'a book of endings,' and that's apt. Roads has none of the pounding passion of Bridges but twice the pathos--it's a book about aging, a reprise in a minor key. Or put another way, it's less about the bridges, and more about the water under them."