Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend

Book title laid out in lazy curve against the Cedar Bend landscape
There’s a couple in the far distance.

The dust jacket touts Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend as a story about a once-in-a-lifetime love, but that’s misleading. James Robert Waller’s slender novel actually holds three intersecting love stories, only one of which can be told without spoiling the story.

The main story is about Michael Tillman, an economics professor, who falls head over heels in lust with the wife of a new faculty member.

Bored with husband Jim, Jellie Braden finds sexual fulfillment with Michael. Before she married Jim, Jellie Braden had had some bad experience in India which she won’t talk about.

One day Jellie just disappears.

Jim Braden is willing to wait for his wife to work out her problem but Michael gets on a plane for India, determined to find the one woman he wants.

When he finds Jellie in southwest India, he learns her previous experience there was far different—far worse—than he could have imagined.

Her present-day situation is also far more complicated than he could have imagined.

Amid all the love stories, Waller scatters wry comments about academic life that temporarily lighten the emotional tone until he can wrap up his love stories in an ending that’s more plausible than the novel’s jacket notes.

Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend
by James Robert Waller
Warner Books. ©1993. 197 p.
1993 bestseller #3; my grade: B-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Bridges of Madison County (book)

covered bridge photo bears a “cancellation” stamp saying “a novel”
Image is stamped “a novel”

In the Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller wraps a novelette inside two faked author’s notes.

The novel’s central story is about photographer Robert Kincaid, who arrives in Madison County, Iowa, to photograph its seven covered bridges for National Geographic.

He meets Francesca Johnson, a farmer’s wife and mother to two teenagers. Husband and children are at the state fair.

Their attraction is instantaneous. Their passionate affair lasts until its time for the family to come home.

Francesca chooses her family over her lover, and regrets it all the rest of her life. An “afterward” section to the story shows Robert also regretted losing her for the rest of his life.

After Francesca’s death, her children find her handwritten story of the affair. The “author’s preface” says the children gave the author Francesca’s materials and he fleshed it out.

The aura of true romance provided by the faked authors notes made the slender novel a natural for movie treatment: Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the 1995 film, that has an 87% audience score on RottenTomatoes.

The best—and worst—that can be said of the novel is that it’s pleasant entertainment with sex left to the reader’s imagination.

The Bridges of Madison County
by Robert James Waller
Warner Books. ©1992. 171 p.
1993 bestseller #1; 1994 bestseller #9.
My grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni