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Introduction by Terry Tempest Williams Afterword by T. H. Watkins   Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, love Introduction by Terry Tempest Williams Afterword by T. H. Watkins   Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage. From the Trade Paperback edition.


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Introduction by Terry Tempest Williams Afterword by T. H. Watkins   Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, love Introduction by Terry Tempest Williams Afterword by T. H. Watkins   Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage. From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for Crossing to Safety (Modern Library Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    Books like this are why I read. Despite some dark passages, it’s a delight to read and I’m adding it as one of my all-time favorites. The story follows two couples through life. It’s an academic novel in a sense – both men start out as English professors at the University of Wisconsin in the difficult years of the late 1930’s – the end of the Depression, heading into WW II. The hunt for the Holy Grail of tenure and discussions of suitable academic work that will get tenure is one theme - poetry? Books like this are why I read. Despite some dark passages, it’s a delight to read and I’m adding it as one of my all-time favorites. The story follows two couples through life. It’s an academic novel in a sense – both men start out as English professors at the University of Wisconsin in the difficult years of the late 1930’s – the end of the Depression, heading into WW II. The hunt for the Holy Grail of tenure and discussions of suitable academic work that will get tenure is one theme - poetry? novels? literary criticism? Each year the two couples get together at a summer family compound in Vermont owned by the wealthier couple. The introduction tells us that “Crossing to Safety is a love story…in the sense that it explores private lives. No outsider ever knows the interior landscape of a marriage. It is one of the great secrets kept between couples…The hunt for love is always on, and in some tragic, truthful, stunning way it forever eludes us.” One family is much wealthier than the other and helps the former out with a loan that they pay off over time. In chapters that alternate between their present older age (60’s) and their younger years, we learn about their romances and their struggles. (view spoiler)[Both families have children and their ups and downs and health issues – one woman spends time in a mental institution; the other gets polio – she’s in an iron lung for a while and for the rest of her life has crutches and eventually metal braces on her legs. (hide spoiler)] And the afterword tells us something startling about the author’s “uncanny sensitivity to the needs and feelings of women in general; this is certainly reflected in his fiction, in which women play a larger and more central role than in any other male writer I know about.” That’s quite a statement. To an extent this whole book is the story of one woman’s plan (the wife of the main character’s best friend) for the four of them: a matriarchy in a sense. She took this couple in ‘under her wing’ for their whole life. She had a plan – right down to the how and the where she would die once she had cancer. The author is best known for his novels of the West such as Angle of Repose, winner of the 1971 Pulitzer, which is also one my favorites. However Crossing is not a Western novel; in fact I’d call it an ‘Eastern’ one. A great book. Three photos of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom: Top from newengland.com Middle from greenmountainclub.org Bottom from tripadvisor.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Does it seem ironic that a book I’ve awarded a full pentad of stars is also the cause of great frustration? Not when I tell you that my problem has nothing to do with the novel itself, but rather in conjuring the right words to do it justice. You see every account I run through my head makes it sound more boring than it is. I guess I should just start by telling you it’s about two couples who met during the Great Depression. Sid and Charity Lang live well on inherited wealth. Larry and Sally Mor Does it seem ironic that a book I’ve awarded a full pentad of stars is also the cause of great frustration? Not when I tell you that my problem has nothing to do with the novel itself, but rather in conjuring the right words to do it justice. You see every account I run through my head makes it sound more boring than it is. I guess I should just start by telling you it’s about two couples who met during the Great Depression. Sid and Charity Lang live well on inherited wealth. Larry and Sally Morgan struggle in comparison, but have inviting prospects in the groves of academe. While Larry and Sid were junior colleagues in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin, their wives met at a mixer that led to the alliance. Despite the generally hard times, the two couples shared lots of laughs and slathered layers of glue on to their friendship. Hard knocks ensued and health became an issue, yet the ties stayed intact. But nothing much happened you’d call sensational. In fact, the dearth of drama was something that Larry himself hit upon early in his narration: How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Where are the things novelists seize upon and readers expect? Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish? Where are the suburban infidelities, the promiscuities, the convulsive divorces, the alcohol, the drugs, the lost weekends? Where are the hatreds, the political ambitions, the lust for power? Where are speed, noise, ugliness, everything that makes us who we are and makes us recognize ourselves in fiction? But would a failure by those measures be so bad? I’m lucky in that most of the people I spend time with are pretty fully evolved. (That includes GR friends, I say in the least unctuous tone possible.) Their deviations from the norm are more subtle, and all the more fascinating for how well I can imagine them playing out in my own outwardly conventional world. Stegner was a master observer of more nuanced traits. When he profiled characters (as was the case in about 90% of this book), depth was a foregone conclusion. Charity, with her outsized personality, was the natural ringleader. Larry was the most accomplished, and in his role as narrator, the closest to all-knowing. Sally had the oldest soul, the most empathy, and the biggest shoulders for a heavy load. Sid, the wealthy scion, turned out to be the most conflicted – a would-be poet and dreamer sometimes at odds with Charity’s agenda and will. I’m hardly a Stegner expert with this being only my second sampling (Angle of Repose being the first), but he strikes me as the wise litterateur who makes most other writers look bush-league in comparison. Every page has a reminder that his wording is superior, that his insights are better written and, for that matter, better conceived. Here are a few short examples to illustrate the writing and to hint at the thematic core. Larry, having been dealt another blow: Accept? I get tired of accepting. I'm tired of hearing the Lord shapes the back to the burden. Tenure hopefuls sharing a bit of dark humor: You hear what the dean said about Jesus Christ? Sure He's a good teacher, but what's He published? I can’t remember which character said this, but figure it might as well have been Stegner himself: Unconsidered, merely indulged, ambition becomes a vice; it can turn a man into a machine that knows nothing but how to run. Considered, it can be something else -- pathway to the stars, maybe. And another one that could have come directly from Stegner, maybe from a master class in writing: Drama demands the reversal of expectation, but in such a way that the first surprise is followed by an immediate recognition of inevitability. And inevitability takes careful pin-setting. Speaking of writing classes, Stegner was evidently very good as a teacher. Students such as Wendell Berry, Larry McMurtry, Thomas McGuane, Ken Kesey and Raymond Carver speak to that. I always wonder, though, if Lesson #1 is to first become brilliant. In a way it doesn’t matter, craftsmanship vs. innate intellect, since to me Stegner had both. And speaking of pin-setting, the closing scenes he built towards featured plenty of drama even if most of it was subcutaneous. This was the last book Stegner wrote, published at the age of 78. It was paced well at 368 pages, but I’d have happily read more had he cared to stretch it into an epic. The span of history was wide, from their early days in Madison to their elder years at the Langs’ summer home in Vermont. But most of the intervening decades were skipped. Maybe Stegner’s time and energy for a longer book were running out. Besides, he likely said all he intended to say as it was. It made me think that part of the wisdom we gain as we age comes in recognizing what truly matters: the people around us and the ways we connect. This book was a great paean to mature realizations.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    There are some books that seem to have tiny leaks in their spines and covers and pages and release almost unnoticeable misty, smoky particles of their story – well not so much their story but the mood that is created by the story – out into the “real” world. And when reading these books you find – or at least I find (I should shift my point of reference to me not you) that I am seeing things in my daily routine through a sort of cloud that at first I don’t recognize but then suddenly it dawns on There are some books that seem to have tiny leaks in their spines and covers and pages and release almost unnoticeable misty, smoky particles of their story – well not so much their story but the mood that is created by the story – out into the “real” world. And when reading these books you find – or at least I find (I should shift my point of reference to me not you) that I am seeing things in my daily routine through a sort of cloud that at first I don’t recognize but then suddenly it dawns on me that it’s from the book I’m reading! My dreams are affected, my relationships are affected, my perception of self is affected, and my writing style and speaking style change – all because of the fumes from this book seepage. And Crossing to Safety has seepage. This is a book about a lifestyle that I really can’t relate to. But yet now I’ve been to these well orchestrated family picnics at Battell Pond, the Vermont compound belonging to Charity Lang’s family. I’ve ridden in the back of the Marmon with the coolers full of steaks for the grills. And I walked the hundred-mile back roads behind the horse named Wizard wondering if there were two stashes of tea in his pack. I even went to Florence back when you could just waltz into the Uffizi without standing in hour-long lines constantly being approached by ‘brella salesmen. I spent time in an iron lung with my dearest friend by my side assuring me that life was worth living even though I wished it was over. But most of all – what this gaseous cloud of literary filter did for me - was to confirm that good and bad make the whole; that friends, husbands, children and oh yes! don’t forget myself – all can have insufferable habits, be full of faults, clearly be imperfect – but without these “bad” qualities – they would not be the people we love. Here’s the quote from the book that illustrates this best: After spending a lovely day in the Tuscan countryside that ends with rescuing an Italian worker from a horrible accident and transporting him back to his village with a crushed, bleeding hand, Larry asks Sally, “When you remember today, what will you remember best, the spring countryside, and the company of friends, or Piero’s Christ and that workman with the mangled hand?” She thought a minute. “All of it,” she said. “it wouldn’t be complete or real if you left out any part of it, would it?” “Go to the head of the class,” I said. This is a move-to-the-top-of your-list book!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Seen in geological perspective, we are fossils in the making, to be buried and eventually exposed again for the puzzlement of creatures of later eras. Welcome to Wally World. No, not the one with Chevy Chase and a stiff relation on the car roof, the one that is a place of real literary wonder. Wallace Stegner is one of our great national treasures, and Crossing to Safety is a very rich read, a surprising look at the friendship between two couples, four friends. Stegner opens with Charity, a w Seen in geological perspective, we are fossils in the making, to be buried and eventually exposed again for the puzzlement of creatures of later eras. Welcome to Wally World. No, not the one with Chevy Chase and a stiff relation on the car roof, the one that is a place of real literary wonder. Wallace Stegner is one of our great national treasures, and Crossing to Safety is a very rich read, a surprising look at the friendship between two couples, four friends. Stegner opens with Charity, a wealthy New Englander in the last stages of cancer, bringing the foursome back together for one last hurrah. He dusts off this fossil and shows us where it came from. And in the process ponders the craft he is using to tell his story. How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Where are the things novelists seize upon and readers expect? Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish? Where are the suburban infidelities, the promiscuities, the convulsive divorces, the alcohol, the drugs, the lost weekends? Where are the hatreds, the political ambitions, the lust for power? Where are speed, noise, ugliness, everything that makes us who we are and makes us recognize ourselves in fiction?Stegner is up front about the challenge he has presented himself. How does one write an interesting book about friendship? I suppose one begins with being able to create real people with words. But Stegner might disagree. In the book he says you’ve got the wrong idea of what writers do. They don’t understand any more than other people. They invent only plots they can resolve. They ask questions they can answer. Those aren’t people that you see in books, those are constructs.And yet his characters do seem real and that is why we come to care about them. Larry is a young teacher arriving at his first job in Madison Wisconsin. He is the hard-worker, always writing, articles, stories, a novel, using every spare minute to put words to paper. His wife, Sally, had given up her college career to help Larry through his education, and is pregnant when they set up shop in town. She and Larry barely scrape by. She is probably the least defined of the four, supportive to all, but ultimately the one most in need of the support of her friends. She appears early on with canes and leg braces. We learn later how she acquired them. Sid and Charity are at the very opposite end of the financial spectrum. Sid, from Pittsburgh, inherited considerable family wealth. He is a dreamer, wanting to write his poetry, ponder the land, more of a transcendentalist than anything. Charity came from old New England money. She is the organizer, the one who must be in charge. This unlikely foursome become fast friends almost immediately, finding an Eden of mutual acceptance and admiration. The notion of Eden is one that recurs with some frequency. From the high porch, the woods pitching down to the lake are more than a known and loved place. They are a habitat we were once fully adapted to, a sort of Peaceable Kingdom where species such as ours might evolve unchallenged and find their step on the staircase of being. Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained arrive towards the end. In between, Sid and Charity’s first time together at her family retreat in northern Vermont, Battell Pond, is like a stroll through the first garden. An aspect of Charity’s personality is even referred to, during a multi-day hike the foursome take while in Vermont years later, as the “serpent in paradise.” Clearly the Eden of the two pairs’ friendship is not without its dangers. Although his setting is the Northeast, mostly, instead of his beloved West, Stegner pays close attention to place. The hemlocks like this steep shore. Like other species, they hang on to their territory much like Charity is grown from her New England soil. Larry hankers for his birthplace in the Southwest and winds up there, but Stegner satisfies himself with some description of Wisconsin and much of Battell Pond. As the land does in his other tales, this one challenges his characters. A long hike, perhaps standing in for a life journey, is fraught with unexpected impediments, an unmapped beaver pond, storm-downed trees that force unfortunate detours. In Wisconsin, a stormy lake threatens all their lives. Order is indeed the dream of man, but chaos, which is only another word for dumb, blind, witless chance, is still the law of nature.But Charity takes it as her mission to prevail over entropy. Soon spring would thaw the drifts and reveal the disorder and scarred earth, and she would set to work to transform it into a landscape.We shift between the present and the past, following the friends through the stages of their lives. The two men, both teachers, struggle with getting tenure, finding professional fulfillment and success. We also get a look into the struggles each couple experiences within their relationships. Although all four are offered the stage it is the pairing of Sid and Charity that most lights it up. Stegner offers small details that illuminate and portend. Here Larry describes an interaction with Charity. the kiss I aimed at her cheek barely grazed her. She was not much of a kisser. She had a way of turning at the last minute and presenting a moving target. And what happens at the end of our lives, when this friendship comes to its final chapter? Seen in either geological or biological terms, we don’t warrant attention as individuals. One of us doesn’t differ that much from another, each generation repeats its parents, the works we build to outlast us are not much more enduring than anthills, and much less so than coral reefs. Here everything returns upon itself, repeats and renews itself, and present can hardly be told from past.Stegner shows that there are always more shoots ready to seek the light as ancient woods bow with time, but we cross our lives to safety with the memories of our brief time here, the treasures of love and friendship. One of those treasures is having read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    A Lost World Once upon a time there was an American Republican President named Eisenhower. Ike wasn’t a very smart man but he was not an evil man. He didn’t like the way the world was run, not even in his own country. But he remained calm in his politics and civil to his political opponents. He set an example. People felt safe around other people. At that time there was a place called Vermont. It contained a smaller place called the Northeast Kingdom. There were no motorways then and this place wa A Lost World Once upon a time there was an American Republican President named Eisenhower. Ike wasn’t a very smart man but he was not an evil man. He didn’t like the way the world was run, not even in his own country. But he remained calm in his politics and civil to his political opponents. He set an example. People felt safe around other people. At that time there was a place called Vermont. It contained a smaller place called the Northeast Kingdom. There were no motorways then and this place wasn’t on the way to anywhere else. So if you were there, you meant to be there. It had quiet roads for children to walk along, forested hills that the same children could get lost among, and general stores that these children could count on for shady coolness when they found their way home. These smelled of smoke and sweet tobacco. It is of course the smells that are most memorable but the least describable. Outside the general store, the repair crew works reeking tar into the cracks of the roadbed. The scent of the maples is only noticeable as you enter the stand of spruce, and theirs, only while coming back into the maples. The lake water smells of the rotting leaves on the bottom. I’m sure it’s possible to smell the ozone on the mountains if the wind isn’t blowing. Smell is the quickest sense to accept its environment as normal but also the one that makes the most dramatic effect when re-encountered. It was a good time even if not the best of times. There was this disease called polio. Anyone could catch it, almost anywhere. Many did; everyone knew someone who knew someone who had it. Polio didn’t kill everyone it found, but it did a heck of a job killing their nervous system. Remember President Roosevelt? A bit smarter than Eisenhower but he could only stand up straight with steel braces on his legs. He caught polio in Canada, just over the border. Summertime wasn’t all fun and games. Sometimes it was dangerous. But it was never unexpected. Of course the good old days for us were the new unpredictable days of the mid-twentieth century for most of the country folk roundabout. We, especially we children, were a problem. We made senseless noise; we had no predictable routines; we did nothing productive; we had no skills useful in the countryside; and we spoke out of turn. We lacked any hint of Methodist discipline or deference. We were therefore dealt with most harshly by the natives - with a stern scowl. Nevertheless “There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters.” Re-visiting that time and place is dangerous, not because it’s an idealised past which doesn’t measure up to scrutiny, but because it’s a forgotten past which suddenly re-emerges with the emotional force of death. This time is not 60 or 70 years ago; it is yesterday. And the chasm between yesterday and today is an entire life which has been expended. For good or ill, this life has dissipated and dispersed down that hole. The chasm demands to be filled with meaning. The content doesn’t matter that much. Tragedy, fulfilment, success, sacrifice, regret are really equivalent rubble. But only when the gap is filled can a crossing be made safely. It is always surprising what the best fiction-writing raises from the psychic depths. Connections to others, and to oneself, abound in the most unlikely places during the most unlikely times.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    The narrator of this novel, Larry Morgan, at one point says to his wife, “But if I’m going to set the literary world on fire, the only way to do it is to rub one word against the other.” Not only did Wallace Stegner likely set the literary world on fire with this book, he set me on fire! Can you imagine reading an entire book about the long friendship between two couples and being left gasping at the end, longing for more? The characters in this book (primarily Larry and his wife Sally, and th The narrator of this novel, Larry Morgan, at one point says to his wife, “But if I’m going to set the literary world on fire, the only way to do it is to rub one word against the other.” Not only did Wallace Stegner likely set the literary world on fire with this book, he set me on fire! Can you imagine reading an entire book about the long friendship between two couples and being left gasping at the end, longing for more? The characters in this book (primarily Larry and his wife Sally, and their friends Sid and Charity Lang) have personalities that are indelibly etched in my heart. I know these people – not just from the outside but because parts of each one are, or have been parts of me, too – at one point or another in my life. At the very least, I was definitely them and they were me during the course of reading this book. The places I have never been that are described in this book are places as familiar to me now as they would be had I grown up there. The trees, the smells, the weather changes, the variants in the sky – I know them all intimately from reading this book. Wallace Stegner does not need plot devices at all to draw his readers in close enough to live in the book. I don’t know how he does it, but he does – with wit, with compassion, with understanding and with care. I definitely want to read more of Mr. Stegner’s writing this year. This book was a lovely gift to myself and I plan to repeat the action over the coming months. I also highly recommend that everyone gift themselves with at least a couple of Wallace Stegner’s novels this year if at all possible.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Stegner did it. We follow two married couples from their bright eyed 1930s youth to their retirement years. There's no razzle dazzle, no shocks or mysteries, no scandals or horrors . Their hurts are subtle and familiar. The writing is solid and reflective and downright beautiful. I found the story to be mostly about acceptance. Loving people even when you don't like them. Finding satisfaction in life even when your plans f How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? Stegner did it. We follow two married couples from their bright eyed 1930s youth to their retirement years. There's no razzle dazzle, no shocks or mysteries, no scandals or horrors . Their hurts are subtle and familiar. The writing is solid and reflective and downright beautiful. I found the story to be mostly about acceptance. Loving people even when you don't like them. Finding satisfaction in life even when your plans fall through. Not settling, not feeling trapped or resentful, but just learning to be OK with your life and appreciating what you have instead of wasting your life obsessing over what you don't have. A curiously ordinary yet elusive concept.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    "Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases…" —Wallace Stegner As with A Gentleman in Moscow and The Heart's Invisible Furies, the inescapable popularity of this book on Goodreads was the white flash of a rabbit's tail that first caught my eye. Then as I dipped into the lavish reviews, it became the godlike voice that boomed at me through thun "Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases…" —Wallace Stegner As with A Gentleman in Moscow and The Heart's Invisible Furies, the inescapable popularity of this book on Goodreads was the white flash of a rabbit's tail that first caught my eye. Then as I dipped into the lavish reviews, it became the godlike voice that boomed at me through thunder clouds: "Do thyself a favour, mortal, and REEEAD THIS BOOOOK!" it resounded. So, that’s exactly what I did. (I would just like to add at this stage that a plethora of five-star reviews isn't always a reliable indicator of a book's calibre). The story spans several decades and is told by genial culture vulture, Larry Morgan, a writer who marries during the Great Depression; a man prepared to suffer for his art so long as he has his wonderful wife, Sally, by his side. He remarks that it was beautiful to be young and hard up if you had the right wife. There is a 'let's get it all out in the open' honesty to Stegner's writing. His direction though is steered by optimism. This is an urbane version of Steinbeck: An erudite, glass-half-full Steinbeck. He is highbrow yet humble, scholarly yet folksy. And as if his elegant no-nonsense prose wasn’t enough, he proceeds to tick almost all my literary boxes by gilding it with some wonderful imagery (cattle grazing in the distance are described as being "tiny as aphids on a leaf") Brilliant! Back of the net, Stegner! In a scene reminiscent of an episode of Frasier, Larry and his wife are beguiled by like-minded aesthetes, the Langs, who invite them to their fancy schmantzy dinner party. The foursome become lifetime friends and the thrust of the story is as much about them as it is the Morgans. Their very human dynamics will ring many readers' bells because this semi-autobiographical tale gives us the sense of being allowed to pry into the highs and lows of people’s personal lives over a period of several decades. Despite his literary success, Larry is often embarrassed at being able to enjoy a comparatively comfortable lifestyle without ever needing to roll up his sleeves and commit to a 'proper' job (his father was a farmer). He also recognises that there is more to life than the tinsel of literary praise (so true!). This was my first read by this astonishingly gifted author, and it shan’t be my last. Stegner was clearly at one with nature and a charming aside about Achilles the Tortoise immediately reminded me of dear old Gerald Durrell. Oh, and the women in this book are given equal billing to the men, which is always a good thing in my view. Because this human story was capably written and wonderfully realised, it didn't need any flash bang wallop or bells and whistles. It's ostensibly a book where a seasoned author has taken his time and allowed his love of words to drive the narrative.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    How STRANGE. I assumed, based on the endless 5-star ratings out there for this book, that it was going to be a slam dunk for me. But this book, which is the story of two couples (Larry and his wife Sally, and their friends Sid and Charity), bugged the heck out of me. I'm SORRY! This is may be the sequel to my controversial Prince of Tides experience, in which I just couldn't find the love for a beloved classic. I'll start off by saying there's no denying that Wallace Stegner is a lovely and elegant How STRANGE. I assumed, based on the endless 5-star ratings out there for this book, that it was going to be a slam dunk for me. But this book, which is the story of two couples (Larry and his wife Sally, and their friends Sid and Charity), bugged the heck out of me. I'm SORRY! This is may be the sequel to my controversial Prince of Tides experience, in which I just couldn't find the love for a beloved classic. I'll start off by saying there's no denying that Wallace Stegner is a lovely and elegant writer. I wouldn't and couldn't critique him on that level. He is a Pulitzer prize and National Book Award winning writer, with an impressive literacy legacy. But (and you knew there had to be one)... I wasn't in the least bit enamoured with the story. It was, in my view, 1) highly sentimental, 2) populated with annoying characters who were in unhealthy yet romanticized relationships, 3) just not that interesting. Larry is a writer, Sally is his saintly, soft-spoken wife (who doesn't seem to have much else going on). They meet and instantly fall under the spell of Charity and her husband Sid. Charity is strong willed (see: pathologically controlling) and Sid is deferential (see: spineless). Sid wants to be a poet but Charity forbids his writing poetry in favour of growing a successful career at the university. The book follows the two couples as Larry rises to success and Sid stays under Charity's thumb. Both relationships are described as "addictions" and it's hard to see either couple as happy. But Stegner celebrates them, oddly. I found myself tiring of wealthy Sid and Charity, their boisterous generosity. And of Larry and Sally, constantly extolling them for being so boisterous and generous. I tired of the delightful idealized escapades they enjoyed together. I tired of the decades long fight between Charity and Sid over Sid's wanting to write poetry. Come ON, really? This was so weak, so hard to believe or care about. He can't write a few poems and be a professor? Sid's like a whipped dog, right to the bitter end. I have to wonder what Stegner has to celebrate about these relationships other than the sheer tenacity of the couples. Is this the wisdom he came to in his old age? What exactly is he advocating? Stay with your spouse until you die, even if you are unhappy, co-dependent and resentful? Or is this what he decided marriage was? I know I'm completely on the outside here, and I'm treading on hallowed ground - once again I'm wearing my slippers as to not leave a trace. Please ignore me, lovers of Stegner's last and adored novel. I'm just one lowly reader who probably should stick to McCarthy and his ilk.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    The warm shudders I experienced as I sank into each night with this book on my lap, the stunning imagery of diminished time against an unchanging landscape, and the quiet story of academic couples faced with tragedy, makes me certain that Stegner will be an author I grow with this year. This year I made a pact with myself to become more familiar with the works of authors I love. Now here I am, back to visit Stegner, "The Dean of Western Writers," after having admired the program he started at St The warm shudders I experienced as I sank into each night with this book on my lap, the stunning imagery of diminished time against an unchanging landscape, and the quiet story of academic couples faced with tragedy, makes me certain that Stegner will be an author I grow with this year. This year I made a pact with myself to become more familiar with the works of authors I love. Now here I am, back to visit Stegner, "The Dean of Western Writers," after having admired the program he started at Stanford and after having relished his guidebook, On Teaching and Writing Fiction. I read this simple, yet sweeping Great Depression story of love and friendship, of time and discovery, of pleasure and pain, and it sparked something in me that leaves me a bit in awe, a bit speechless, a bit drained. "I wonder if I have ever felt more alive, more competent in my mind and more at ease with myself and my world, than I feel for a few minutes on the shoulder of that known hill while I watch the sun climb powerfully and confidently and see below me the unchanged village, the lake like a pool of mercury, the varying greens of hayfields and meadows and sugarbush and black spruce words, of all of it lifting and warming as the stretched shadows shorten." (When they were younger, sometimes the academic couples camped around a hill like this, enjoying the sunset; sometimes Larry and Sid sat on a bench like this, just above the hill, and they discussed career disappointments). I hope I will have more to say about this book, or I guess I should be clear that I do have more to say but I hope I'll have the energy to write those thoughts. I just sent off another scholarship recommendation for a former student who I hope will someday conquer scientific research. Afterwards, I almost shut off my laptop. But I feel as if I owe some form of expression to one of the pioneers of Graduate Art Programs who helped developed budding artists like myself who can only wish she gains an ounce of the creative momentum Larry had in this novel. I hope I'll have more to say because while reading this, it underscored for me my uniqueness as the other half of an academic couple. I don't teach currently, but I have taught a few years of undergraduate courses. For the past several years, my husband and I have lived in a few academic communities while he worked in administration and I worked on faculty. Not so much unlike Larry and Sally. And like Larry, I've realized the strains that an environment of conformed thought places upon the creative mind, the lack of knowledge about the field, and the necessity of fellowships like Stegner's. (see my review here ). And Sally, well she is just so nuanced that all I can say briefly is that she's an indomitable warrior and helpmeet who faces illness with steel. I hoped I would have more to say about this encompassing read, but I have the feeling I've already said enough...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    This defines the term character-driven novel, multi-faceted and deeply defined Steigner hones each with a surgeon’s precision. A story of two couples, the joys and challenges of their marriages and enduring friendship and a life cocooned within Ivy League’s walls. • Larry Morgan (narrator): workaholic, driven, rags-to-riches college professor & author extraordinaire “I was a cork held under, my impulse was always up” • Sally Morgan: ah Saint Sally…“I had to live, out of pure gratitude” • Sid Lan This defines the term character-driven novel, multi-faceted and deeply defined Steigner hones each with a surgeon’s precision. A story of two couples, the joys and challenges of their marriages and enduring friendship and a life cocooned within Ivy League’s walls. • Larry Morgan (narrator): workaholic, driven, rags-to-riches college professor & author extraordinaire “I was a cork held under, my impulse was always up” • Sally Morgan: ah Saint Sally…“I had to live, out of pure gratitude” • Sid Lang: repressed poet; handsome, wealthy & weak. • Charity Lang: generous & passionate, also a ball-breaking control freak. Without her this would’ve been painfully dull. I had a hard time seeing past their smugness “Their intelligence and their civilized tradition protect them from most of the temptations, indiscretions, vulgarities, and passionate errors that pester and perturb most of us" and sense of superiority, they kinda drove me nuts. “Consider your birthright,” we told each other when fatigue or laziness threatened to slow our hungry slurping of culture. “Think who you are. You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge.” Undereducated brute that I am those passages made me want to huck this book at a wall. “They have been able to buy quiet, and distance themselves from industrial ugliness.” Fair enough and admirably honest. While I shared their reverence for literature and art they lost me with their DISINTEREST in anything outside their cozy little world. Cons: Pretty obvious I had a problem with the tone:) Add to that the pacing; I love character-driven novels but a bit more action wouldn’t have hurt. An argument over if the teabags had been packed or not (view spoiler)[they were… (hide spoiler)] a highlight. Meanderings: I’m not having much luck picking classics this year, blame it on my Glasgow working-class roots but the trials & tribulations of the privileged just aren’t working for me, no matter how elegantly written and thought provoking. Guess I’m jealous, should just stick with ‘Dickens’. So consider the source and read other reviews, most are glowing. Undecided on Stegner With an autobiographical flavor this is his final novel. Like Morgan, Stegner also grew up dirt poor & went on to become a great writer (view spoiler)[ and like the character Charity Lang, his adored mother also died of cancer (hide spoiler)] Similarly he still managed 3 degrees despite the timing of the Great Depression, amazing. Learned this after finishing the book, maybe I’d have gotten more out of it had I known this going in. Anyway, will definitely be reading Angle of Repose

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    My review of Stegner's Angle of Repose in which I was fairly critical of the book, several readers objected and insisted I read Crossing to Safety. Well, I listened to the audiobook during a long 7h drive today and found it more interesting than Angle and yet not in my upper echelon of American 20th C novels. Crossing reminded me more of Richard Russo's style that it did of Updike (both of whose writing I prefer). I liked the descriptions very much (as I did in Angle), but had a hard time really My review of Stegner's Angle of Repose in which I was fairly critical of the book, several readers objected and insisted I read Crossing to Safety. Well, I listened to the audiobook during a long 7h drive today and found it more interesting than Angle and yet not in my upper echelon of American 20th C novels. Crossing reminded me more of Richard Russo's style that it did of Updike (both of whose writing I prefer). I liked the descriptions very much (as I did in Angle), but had a hard time really liking Larry and Sally. I felt a bit repulsed by Charity and sorry for Sid. And I felt that - like in Angle - when Stegner wants to make a dramatic point, there is never really a fine point to it, it is to me quite heavy handed. Midway, he does a clever fake breaking of the 4th wall and I liked analogies he used (especially "the pilgrim versus the pickpocket"). I found all the name-dropping in Florence a bit tedious even if I did appreciate some of the analysis particularly of Massacio (one of my favoritea there) as well as the playing of Beethoven's 9th over the chilling conflict over dishwashing. Perhaps the best way to express my feeling about this book is conflicted: I know many loved it and while I can see its qualities, I cannot say that I had more than an appreciation for it. Thinking about it more, I fet there was a bit of anti-Semitism in the book - despite the narrator's offhand denial - in that the only Jewish people portrayed are the couple that is rejected by the group, but especially Morris later who has a stutter. Honestly, I didn't see the point of adding that personal defect on that character. Maybe I am too sensitive, but that did bug me a bit. GR member Joachim pointed out this cool adhoc sountrack for Angles that I should share as well booksounds Oh, and I did read and review Stegner's Crossing to Safety as well after repeated recommendations in the comments to this review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    Oh, my heart, what a novel. I'm incredulous that this novel is not up there among the best novels of the 20th century . I only heard of Stegner last year. I can't remember ever reading a novel about a friendship between two grown-up couples. Such friendships are rare. Lots of things have to align for that to happen, besides proximity, compatibility between four people, and the kids, a similar socio-economic standing, political and intellectual similarities. Written in the 1980s, this is a novel abo Oh, my heart, what a novel. I'm incredulous that this novel is not up there among the best novels of the 20th century . I only heard of Stegner last year. I can't remember ever reading a novel about a friendship between two grown-up couples. Such friendships are rare. Lots of things have to align for that to happen, besides proximity, compatibility between four people, and the kids, a similar socio-economic standing, political and intellectual similarities. Written in the 1980s, this is a novel about a friendship forged in the late 1930s, when Larry Morgan and Sid Lang were colleagues in the English Department of a university in Madison, Wisconsin. They're both hoping for tenure. Their financial situation is very different - the Morgans live paycheck to paycheck, whereas the Langs have a privileged financial situation. Charity Lang, Sid's wife, is a force of nature. She's vivacious, enthusiastic, organised, determined, generous, and bullheaded. Nothing fazes her. Her huge house is a hub for entertainment and get-togethers. She's the ultimate hostess. She never stops and loses patience with those who don't toe the line or keep up, an impossible task. I liked her a lot. Larry's wife, Sally, is kind and unassuming, in many ways, Charity's opposite. But opposites attract. The Morgans live their best years in the Langs' company. Besides the wonderful characterisations, Stegner created a very atmospheric novel, with beautifully descriptive prose. I could smell the woods, feel I was inside the Langs' house and had picnics with them and their extended family. Truly, a most marvellous novel. I think this is my favourite novel of the year, so far. NB: A little movie on Stegner. It's narrated by Robert Redford - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGCC6...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Georg

    For me this book is difficult to review. On the one hand I needed two weeks for 280 pages which is not a good sign, on the other hand I enjoyed reading it a lot. In the end I did not know how to rate it. Instead of deciding spontaneously I listened two the both voices in my head (yes, I hear voices), the Good Guy and the Bad Guy. I will give you just a short summary of their dialogue. GG: "You must be kidding. Three stars for this excellently written masterpiece?" BG: "I don't object that part, it For me this book is difficult to review. On the one hand I needed two weeks for 280 pages which is not a good sign, on the other hand I enjoyed reading it a lot. In the end I did not know how to rate it. Instead of deciding spontaneously I listened two the both voices in my head (yes, I hear voices), the Good Guy and the Bad Guy. I will give you just a short summary of their dialogue. GG: "You must be kidding. Three stars for this excellently written masterpiece?" BG: "I don't object that part, it's well written, but what was it about?" GG: "Friendship, well educated people, marriage, age and the meaning of life. What else do you expect?" BG: "Uhh, educated people who quote incessantly Eliot, Dante and Goethe and thousands of writers I could not even repeat the names of. And then those characters: Four saints in a rectangular friendship who excuse themselves all the time for being generous. The worst sin described is Charity's tendancy to be a bit pushy and Sid's tendancy to be a bit weak. I stress a bit since everything in this novel is a bit of something, but never the real thing." GG: "Stegner himself admits he did not want to write a drama or an adventurous story. And what is wrong with that. You liked Independence day a lot and nothing happens there either." BG: "At least Bascombe is mischievous and - you know - I like bad guys. But this is not the point. It makes a lot of difference if nothing happens in four days or if nothing happens in half a century. And finally: it does not improve the lack of plot if the author tells us that he did in on purpose. Name at least three events in his story." GG: "The accident on the lake..." BG: "They were saved in a couple of minutes." GG: "Sally's dramatic sickness..." BG: "Well, in the end she is the most sane in the scene." GG: "I think I should not mention the teabags...." BG: "Better not." In the end, as in most cases, BG won the dispute. [Book: Crossing to safety] is like a beautiful day on a sailboat in the midst of the most wonderful landscape, but without wind.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Life is a process of gradually narrowing choices. You learn this early in life, often when playing sports. You know you’re not going to be a Major League Baseball player because you can’t hit a curveball, or a fast fastball, or, in fact, the ball off a tee. Later, in school, you discover that your eyesight – and fear of heights – is going to keep you from being a jet pilot; and that your biology score is going to keep you from being a doctor, or passing biology; and that you aren’t ever going to Life is a process of gradually narrowing choices. You learn this early in life, often when playing sports. You know you’re not going to be a Major League Baseball player because you can’t hit a curveball, or a fast fastball, or, in fact, the ball off a tee. Later, in school, you discover that your eyesight – and fear of heights – is going to keep you from being a jet pilot; and that your biology score is going to keep you from being a doctor, or passing biology; and that you aren’t ever going to be a lighthouse keeper because those things are all automated now. The winnowing of opportunity extends to friendship. When you’re young and single and carefree you can hang out with whoever you want (whenever you want, at whatever bar you want). Once you start to pair off, however, and your previously single-and-carefree friends do likewise, you wake up one morning to realize that all your friends are couple-friends. They are lovely people and you like them and all that – but they’re also a compromise to the circumstances of life. We’re friends because you’re married and we’re married and you have kids and we have kids! I love my couple-friends. We have a great time together. The friendship, though, is not organic, at least not in the way of your first best friend, or your high school pals, or the guys you ran with in college. Couple friends are a trickier milieu. You need to make or discover a common ground, rather than having it to begin with. After being friends with another couple for awhile, you forget who met who first. My wife and I still argue over who gets credit for creating our social circle. She thinks it’s her charm. I think it’s my low-grade alcoholism. The dynamics of couple-friends is at the heart of Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. The two couples are Larry and Sally Morgan, and Sidney and Charity Lang. Larry is the novel’s first-person narrator. He is a teacher and a writer and a bit of a navel-gazer; she is a housewife. Sidney is also a teacher, and independently wealthy; his wife is a blunt and ambitious string-puller whose family owns a Kennedy Compound-like piece of land in the Vermont hills. (There’s no perfect place to say this, so I’ll just say it here – there is no swinging in this book. Don’t expect anyone to be crossing to a foursome. I know, I was disappointed too). The Morgans and the Langs meet in Madison, at the University of Wisconsin, during the Great Depression. In Crossing to Safety, however, the outside world seldom intrudes on a very insular, inward-looking story. Larry sometimes mentions his poverty (rapidly overcome), but the reality of the Great Depression – and, for that matter, the convulsions of World War II – are deeply backgrounded. Stegner’s interest is on the friendship between these four, and he allows very little to distract him from divining these mysteries. It is clear to see the themes and arcs that Stegner is trying to develop. Larry and Sid (their wives are never given independent ambitions) begin as young, idealistic world-beaters, with aspirations towards publication. As they grow older, they confront the sudden turns and dead ends that inevitably litter the road of life. This theme is stated rather explicitly: What ever happened to the passion we all had to improve ourselves, live up to our potential, leave a mark on the world? Our hottest arguments were always about how we could contribute. We did not care about the rewards. We were young and earnest. We never kidded ourselves that we had the political gifts to reorder society or insure social justice. Beyond a basic minimum, money was not a goal we respected… Of course, the only people who can afford not to respect money are those who have it. And that’s part of the problem, dramatically speaking, with Crossing to Safety. Career-wise, at least, the road isn’t all that bad for Larry or Sid. Both of them trace a pretty nice career path that leaves them financially secure and able to spend entire summers at the Lang’s Vermont hideaway, enjoying nature, reading the classics, and eating extravagant lunches (the descriptions of the lunches should not be read on an empty stomach). They have the luxury of living what Charity calls the “austere life,” while floating above the everyday struggles other people. There are no bread lines, New Deal programs, or bean dinners for these folks. In other words, Stegner is describing a very particular type of white middle class life. I don’t necessarily think he was going for universality with this story (which I believe to be partially autobiographical), but a certain universality has been heaped upon it, in naming this a classic. There are certain universal truths in play, but the Langs and the Morgans live very particular, not-very-relatable lives, especially given the context in which the novel plays out. This is not to say that bad things don’t happen. They do. There are massive life disruptions that come out of nowhere, just like they do in life. Of course, these two couples are more able than most to weather these storms. More than anything, this is a novel about aging. About the things that we start to lose, no matter how successful we are, how well we plan, how cleanly we live. In order to cover four lives in 327 pages, there are some massive temporal leaps taken in the narrative. The novel begins in the novel’s present day, with all four friends in late middle age. It then flashes back to 1937, when the Langs and the Morgans meet and become instant besties. These scenes are rich and full of detail. Other sections, though, cover large swaths of life with cursory depictions. By the time the novel reaches its third act, the jumps have become so pronounced that it weakens the story. For instance, there comes a point when both families have young children. Then, in a matter of pages, those children are all grown and engaging in long paragraphs of expository dialogue. Crossing to Safety is rather unusual in its topic and its execution. Larry’s interest in Sid and Charity borders on the Ahab-like. He describes them minutely, painstakingly, even relating a section of Sid and Charity’s courtship as though he were an omnipresent observer, though he had not yet met them. The odd result is that Sid and Charity become indelible characters, while Larry’s own wife Sally becomes a one-dimensional plot point. That said, I liked this Crossing to Safety quite a bit. Stegner is a very good, at times beautiful writer. It felt like a purification before the next fateful, hopeful chapter of our lives. Up to our chins in the water that foamed through its marble bowl, tiptoeing the smooth bottom to keep our noses above the surface, the light wavering and winking down on us and flickering off the curved walls, trees overhanging us and the sky beyond those, and all around and through us, a soul-massage, the rush and patter and tinkle of water and the brush and break of bubbles. It was a present that made the future tingle. What I didn't know as I stood blissful in the foam was that I had begun to foam too, though I hadn’t yet felt the salt. Stegner has the courage to give us characters who aren’t wholly likeable. Charity, especially, is an infuriating bundle of contradictions. He has some remarkable perceptions. And he really knows how to describe a picnic! His endgame, set at Sid and Charity’s compound, is absolutely devastating – not entirely pleasant to read, but honest and brutal. Crossing to Safety ultimately lingers with you awhile as a mournful and melancholy tribute to the passage of time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This is my first book by this author and I was driven to read it by its wonderful title (my next book of his will be Angle of Repose for the same reason) and its enormous popularity. Not necessarily the best of reasons but I was happy with the result. I doubt if anyone would argue that Stegner writes beautifully. This is the kind of prose you have to read slowly and carefully in order not to miss a thing. The story tells of several decades of friendship between two married couples describing the This is my first book by this author and I was driven to read it by its wonderful title (my next book of his will be Angle of Repose for the same reason) and its enormous popularity. Not necessarily the best of reasons but I was happy with the result. I doubt if anyone would argue that Stegner writes beautifully. This is the kind of prose you have to read slowly and carefully in order not to miss a thing. The story tells of several decades of friendship between two married couples describing the ups and downs of their careers, the births of their children and some significant illnesses. Normal lives in fact with all the usual pleasures and pains. The really significant content of Crossing to Safety is the development of the four main characters and their relationships with each other. Of course the closeness of the relationships and reliance of the couples on each other fluctuate over time, affected by world and family events. As the reader I was drawn towards each character whether I liked them as an individual or not and when the book was finished it took a while for me to let them go. Not five stars for me because I did not close the final page and say "Wow!." Rather four stars for a beautifully crafted, comfortable book about the lives of four interesting characters.

  17. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ again “Charity is tall and striking; Sally smaller, darker, quieter. One dazzles, the other warms.” They are half of the foursome completed by Sid and Larry, their husbands. The four of them meet in their twenties, become fast friends, though from very different backgrounds, and bump up against each other on and off for the rest of their lives. Their bond is tested from time to time, by distance and circumstance, but remains unbroken. Larry Morgan narrates the story, beginning near the end, when 5★ again “Charity is tall and striking; Sally smaller, darker, quieter. One dazzles, the other warms.” They are half of the foursome completed by Sid and Larry, their husbands. The four of them meet in their twenties, become fast friends, though from very different backgrounds, and bump up against each other on and off for the rest of their lives. Their bond is tested from time to time, by distance and circumstance, but remains unbroken. Larry Morgan narrates the story, beginning near the end, when he and Sally are grandparents staying in a family cottage at the lake. But soon he reminisces about his and Sally’s first ‘home’ together in a tiny basement apartment. It’s during the Depression, and they had just moved from New Mexico to Madison, Wisconsin, where he has a one-year teaching job at the university while he writes. “I set up a card table for a desk and made a bookcase out of some boards and bricks. In my experience, the world's happiest man is a young professor building bookcases, and the world's most contented couple is composed of that young professor and his wife, in love, employed, at the bottom of a depression from which it is impossible to fall further, and entering on their first year as full adults, not preparing any longer but finally into their lives.” Grown-ups at last! I loved this book when a friend sent it to me years ago, saying “You must read this!” She and I grew up with fathers who were university professors. They didn’t teach in the same field and came from backgrounds as different as those of the Morgans and the Langs, but she and I were kindred spirits and became best friends at 12. I feel I know these people, and I know them better now that I'm a grandparent. But I digress. When Larry and Sally arrive in Madison, she is pregnant and they know nobody. They attend a department afternoon tea, and late one day, Larry comes home, bounding down the stairs to cheer up lonely Sally, and is surprised to find company. “They sat smiling at me. Sally has a smile I would accept as my last view of earth, but it has a certain distance about it, it is under control, you can see her head going on working behind it. This other one, a tall young woman in a blue dress, had quite another kind. In the dim apartment she blazed. Her hair was drawn back in a bun, as if to clear her face for expression, and everything in the face smiled—lips, teeth, cheeks, eyes. I mean to say she had a most vivid and, I saw at once, a really beautiful face.” One wonders. Larry is devoted to Sally, but he makes Charity sound awfully appealing. Charity is also pregnant (with her second child) and has welcomed Sally as a sister. She invites them to their next party, and Larry is stunned by the magnificent picture the Langs make as they answer the door. On campus, Sid has always seemed a mild-mannered, gray-suited, bespectacled, deferential man. Not at home, he isn’t. Here he seems like someone who might charm Sally. “Sidney Lang, he overwhelmed the sight. . . dress was the least part of his transformation. Something had enlarged and altered him. If this had happened in recent years, I would be compelled toward images of Clark What's-His-Name throwing off his glasses and business suit and emerging in his cape as Superman. This English instructor in his Balkan or whatever it was shirt, standing by his beautiful wife and crushing the hands of his guests, was by Michelangelo out of Carrara, a giant evoked from the rock.” Larry may be over-awed, but the Langs are impressed that he’s actually had his stories published. (Universities demand Publish or Perish.) In answer to some of the academic show-offs at the party, Larry persuades quiet Sally to read some of "The Odyssey" aloud in Greek. “She has great dignity and presence when she is cornered, and when she reads that antique poetry she can bring tears to your eyes. It is much better than if you could understand it. She chants out of a remote time with the clang of bronze in it.” After the party, the four take the first of their countless walks together. “I remember how quiet it was, how empty the streets at that hour, how our feet were loud on pavement and then hushed in grass and then crackly in leaves. There was a glint of settling frost in the air. Our voices and breaths went up and got mixed with the shadows of trees and the bloom of arc lights and the glitter of stars.” Walking, camping, swimming, getting out into the fresh air is much a part of the story as the academic striving for jobs and tenure. The activities seem to pull the four together into the kind of camaraderie-loyalty-rivalry you find between siblings or close cousins who have grown up together. Family. These four are a unit, complete, content, happy to endure the trials of life together. Something that struck me is that the Langs’ children and the Morgans’ daughter are generally ‘offstage’ being looked after by ‘the girl’ who works for the Langs. Mostly, we watch the foursome develop their connection and watch how they manage their conflicts and make allowances for each other. Charity is a force of nature. She is the flame around which the others flit. She plots their route, plans their activities, brooks no arguments, although there certainly are some. “She was still developing her sundial theory of art, which would count no hours but the sunny ones.” But they love her, and cooperate to keep the peace and maintain the friendship. She reminds me of my father’s occasional joke that “You’ll enjoy yourself whether you like it or not.” Stegner’s writing is beautiful, comfortable, easy to read. His people are academics, so there is a lot of conversation around poetry, literature, history, culture – all of which they love, but if it’s unfamiliar to you, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to know "The Odyssey" to understand how Sally charmed her listeners. You don’t need to have walked through the Vermont woods to appreciate the effect on newcomers. You will feel right at home anyway.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is a well written and very subdued story; there are no revelations or culminations. It is about friendship and marriage over a lifetime and how it evolves, changes, and adjusts. The novel is very character based and concerns two different couples who become close friends. They are both very literary and they meet while teaching at a small college in the mid-west. Most of the settings, captured splendidly by the author, are either in the mid-west or at a lake in northern Vermont that is surro This is a well written and very subdued story; there are no revelations or culminations. It is about friendship and marriage over a lifetime and how it evolves, changes, and adjusts. The novel is very character based and concerns two different couples who become close friends. They are both very literary and they meet while teaching at a small college in the mid-west. Most of the settings, captured splendidly by the author, are either in the mid-west or at a lake in northern Vermont that is surrounded by lush forests, streams, and mountains. The central theme would be the (view spoiler)[ controlling personality of Charity. She orchestrates the lives of the people surrounding her. For example, after dinner she promptly has a musical appreciation interlude where she has everyone listen to classical records. She is running the life of her spouse and becomes disappointed when the goals she has set for him have not been met. I found Charity obnoxious which is a tribute to the author’s ability to project this character type. I have met this type of personality (control freak) at times in my life and feel it is you who are responsible if you let others control your life and daily agenda. (hide spoiler)] One main issue I had with this story (view spoiler)[was children. When we first meet Charity and Sid at the beginning in the small mid-western town, they have two young children with one on the way. There is scene after scene of picnics, parties, and skating with our two main couples, but no children. It is like the author made the children invisible, like a background prop. I believe the author was unable to incorporate the children’s lives into his story. This happens over and over again in the narrative with children way off in the distance. I was left wondering if these people ever did anything with their kids! Given that the story is very realistic it is a failure on the authors part to weave the lives of the children of the two main couples into the story. (hide spoiler)]

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    As I am waiting for Angle of Repose to arrive for me to read, I started going back through CTS and skimming through it. These years later the passage that has remained closest to me is this: You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is pured on him. And right As I am waiting for Angle of Repose to arrive for me to read, I started going back through CTS and skimming through it. These years later the passage that has remained closest to me is this: You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is pured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine. I'm not exactly sure why through the years it is this specific passage that has stuck with me. Perhaps it's the imagery, but also the notion that life is not always going to be what you plan. I really identify with that. Maybe it is why I am not a specific goal setter. I have general ideas of where I would like to be in life, the kind of person I want to be and what I want to accomplish, but I have room for changes too. It also makes me reflect on how in life we really try to fake it. Try to say "no, I'm fine" when we're not, but we just don't know how to embrace the fact that we're not.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    When I closed this book and laid it aside, my hand was shaking. The shaking was coming from deep inside my body and soul, where Wallace Stegner had infused me with words and images that caused me to tremble with recognition. Stegner understands relationships and he also understands the part of the individual that is never given away to anyone else. He paints that so clearly that you see yourself in it as if it were a mirror. If you cannot see elements of your own marriage in this portrait, you c When I closed this book and laid it aside, my hand was shaking. The shaking was coming from deep inside my body and soul, where Wallace Stegner had infused me with words and images that caused me to tremble with recognition. Stegner understands relationships and he also understands the part of the individual that is never given away to anyone else. He paints that so clearly that you see yourself in it as if it were a mirror. If you cannot see elements of your own marriage in this portrait, you can surely see elements of the marriages you have observed up-close and personal. If you have ever had a friend who lifted you and held you when you would have otherwise fallen, and felt the obligations that accompany such a love, you will recognize that friendship as well. You can feel the bond and the tense pull against it equally. Lastly, Stegner understands time, inevitability, fate. He sees the struggle and recognizes it as belonging to each of us. “You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. but within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine.” (view spoiler)[As organized and controlling as Charity is, she cannot control death or any of what will come after. It is the ultimate fallacy that she believes until the end that she has done that. At the end of this tale, what I know for sure is that Sid will survive and he will have to make his own decisions over which Charity can no longer exercise control. And in doing that, he will feel both his loss of her and his freedom from her in equal measure. (hide spoiler)] Stegner prefaces his book with a quotation from Robert Frost’s poem, I Could Give All to Time. It provides him with a title for his book, but more than that, it echoes its theme. The things in life that are most precious to us are the intangibles, the things we can barely identify ourselves, and the things no one can possibly rip from us. I could give all to Time except – except What I myself have held. But why declare The things forbidden that while the Customs slept I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There, And what I would not part with I have kept. I spent several hours reading and re-reading this poem today, and wondering why I never sat with it before, to digest and devour it, but only admired it in passing, with Frost always being such a favorite poet of mine. I find it difficult to put into words the impact this novel had on me as I read it. I loved every single, carefully chosen, word. I walked the hills of Vermont, danced to the late night records, felt the intensity of the love between these people, and understood the relationships they had forged, in ways that boggled my own mind. It is an immediate addition to the “favorites” folder. I strongly recommend it to any and all readers. My sincere thanks to Elyse who put this wonderful author on my radar. I cannot wait to read Angle of Repose!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Achingly beautiful and deeply moving this is the closest any book has come to bring a tear to my eye, the friendship between the Langs and the Morgans was so strong and heart warming it has profoundly affected the way I look at life and that of my loved ones. Impeccably written by Stegner who I believe was in his late seventies at the time, this really is a timeless novel that would break even those who carry a heart of stone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pedro

    I’m not going to lie (I’m really bad at it) but I’ll have to admit I only heard about Wallace Stegner last year. At the time I’d read a very positive and passionate review and that was enough for me to know I had to read it. And the title, oh my goodness, isn’t it simply wonderful? When I started the book a few days ago I basically knew nothing about it besides the fact that this was going to be a story about two couples who become friends. Today, I’m ready to rave about it to the whole world. W I’m not going to lie (I’m really bad at it) but I’ll have to admit I only heard about Wallace Stegner last year. At the time I’d read a very positive and passionate review and that was enough for me to know I had to read it. And the title, oh my goodness, isn’t it simply wonderful? When I started the book a few days ago I basically knew nothing about it besides the fact that this was going to be a story about two couples who become friends. Today, I’m ready to rave about it to the whole world. Wallace’s elegant, gentle and refined storytelling skills gave me shivers down my spine from the very first page (I promise you’re not going to find a single swear word in these pages). This was (is!) a beautiful story and the characters jumped out from the pages. I feel like I know them better now than some people I’ve known all my life. Oh, my gosh, how I cared about these people. My hands were literally shaking all the time I held this book in my hands. And if get started about Wallace’s prose, I’m afraid you all might think I’m just crazy and obviously exaggerating. Well, I’m not. Exaggerating, I mean, but I’m a bit crazy, yes. I underlined the whole book! While telling this story Wallace gives a sense of space and time like no other author I’ve read before. In my opinion, that was his main strength as a writer. “Order is indeed the dream of man, but chaos, which is only another word for dumb, blind, witless chance, is still the law of nature.” As I mentioned above, this is basically a story about two couples and the way they interact with one another; and it’s told from the perspective of one of them at an older age. So yes, plenty of nostalgic and melancholic feelings in here. I believed their friendship from start to finish. I loved them all. All I wished for them was exactly what I wish for myself; that we all could get to a place and time in this crazy life where we’d finally feel like we were Crossing to Safety. We will get there.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    A Tuning Fork for Epiphanies in the Ordinary I did not expect too much from this novel, being no big fan of Stegner's most-recognized novels, Angle of Repose (thee and thou and thy and thine began to crawl my spine) and the uninspiring The Spectator Bird. I was caught off guard then, by how deeply I was stirred by Stegner's semi-autobiographical novel of a close, long-term friendship between two married couples, set in Wisconsin and New England. Stegner composed a brilliant life contrast: the opt A Tuning Fork for Epiphanies in the Ordinary I did not expect too much from this novel, being no big fan of Stegner's most-recognized novels, Angle of Repose (thee and thou and thy and thine began to crawl my spine) and the uninspiring The Spectator Bird. I was caught off guard then, by how deeply I was stirred by Stegner's semi-autobiographical novel of a close, long-term friendship between two married couples, set in Wisconsin and New England. Stegner composed a brilliant life contrast: the optimism and enthusiasm of two young, married couples starting out in Madison, Wisconsin, when hope sprung eternal, versus these same marrieds, thirty years on, after life, though gracing them in different ways, has ineluctably dealt each major disappointments and forced them into cathartic concessions. What struck me most though, was how much Crossing to Safety--Stegner's final novel--more than any other novel I've read, seemed a perfect parting gift to the world: as his last piece of art, an elegiac exercise in the epiphanies emanating from the unexceptional, a sort of tuning fork to resound in us revelations found in ordinary lives and that we can yet discover in each of our own. This novel not only profoundly moved me, it chimes on in my mind as a carillon of self-contemplation on marriage, friendship and family. One could hardly expect more of a novel. That is ever the difference between the wise and the unwise: the latter wonders at what is unusual; the wise man wonders at the usual.—Emerson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I bought this back when I saw it was included in the book club for Modern Mrs. Darcy, a book club I am not a part of because I don't think you should pay money to belong to a book club, but I do pay attention to what they read. This is another "classic" novel of 20th century literature where I had neither read the book itself nor the author. It focuses on the friendship between two couples, where both men are professors and writers and the women have other stuff going on. How hard is it to keep f I bought this back when I saw it was included in the book club for Modern Mrs. Darcy, a book club I am not a part of because I don't think you should pay money to belong to a book club, but I do pay attention to what they read. This is another "classic" novel of 20th century literature where I had neither read the book itself nor the author. It focuses on the friendship between two couples, where both men are professors and writers and the women have other stuff going on. How hard is it to keep friends as adults? (It's hard.) And how hard is it to find friends that are a couple that are compatible with another couple? (It's hard.) (These are not questions asked by the author, but by me.) “[Friendship] is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore rare.” The plot starts and ends with one of the couples making a trip to a cabin that clearly has memories attached. They are there for a picnic, and that's all you know at first, but then the time shifts back to the beginning of the story. I felt it was reflective about life and love and friendship in all the best ways. I would recommend it for people who loved Stoner by John Williams, The Professor's House by Willa Cather, and anything by Kent Haruf. It is in that grouping of novels that so effectively examine small lives, they are rendered beautiful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    Since I finished reading this book about three weeks ago, I've thought a lot about what its central subject actually is. The friendship between two married couples, with different expectations and backgrounds, over decades is certainly there. But in a sense it feels as though that is the surface, and that there are deeper, less obviously expressed themes throughout the book. One, it seems to me, is a slow examination of what makes up charity. The dominant female character is Charity, wife of easy Since I finished reading this book about three weeks ago, I've thought a lot about what its central subject actually is. The friendship between two married couples, with different expectations and backgrounds, over decades is certainly there. But in a sense it feels as though that is the surface, and that there are deeper, less obviously expressed themes throughout the book. One, it seems to me, is a slow examination of what makes up charity. The dominant female character is Charity, wife of easy going Sid, mother of many children (6?), driving force in all their lives. Charity bubbles with friendliness and generosity when she and Sid meet Larry and Sally, and intervenes to make their lives easier in hard times, always pushing aside thanks. But she is ruthless in her determination to get her own way, especially controlling of Sid and her family. She is vital, vibrant, wilful. Not kind, which to me must be part of charity. There's no evident warmth in her relationship with her children, we don't see her with them, although having a large family is one of the things she says as a young wife that is most important to her. Late in the book, the husband of one of Charity and Sid's daughters refers to Sid as being a captive husband, and we are led to see that the husbands are all captive to their wives in some way, Sid from unwillingness to stand against Charity; Larry because his crippled wife, Sally, depends on him. Poor Sally is made to suffer not only a terrible child birth, but polio that leaves her crippled and in irons. The love between Larry and Sally is much gentler, and sustains them both despite their losses and deprivations. I'm not sure why the terrible child birth is inflicted on Sally as well as the polio. It seemed very unfair, and unnecessary, to give her a double whammy like that. Polio alone establishes her as dependent, though her determination to live a good and loving life give her such strength that it's clear she wouldn't want to be classified as a victim. Stegner said at some stage that hard writing makes easy reading. Every word is chosen and placed with care, and stylistically I agree that this is easy reading. But this story of people who live unspectacular lives, is also hard to read. Again, to quote Stegner: 'Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and callus'. In Crossing to Safety we live with the characters as they acquire their scar tissue, right till the very end. We had an excellent book club discussion, one of the best. Obit for Steger at: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/04/15/obi...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laysee

    Update July 11, 2019 I first read Crossing To Safety, my first book by Wallace Stegner, in August 2013. It made a deep impression that has lingered over the years. Since then I've read many more books by him, and this is still my favorite Stegner. Original review, Aug 17, 2013 Crossing To Safety is a beautiful novel. It has an unassuming, quiet appeal that resides in its verbal felicity and its thoughtful definition of the worthy life. It celebrates the best of friendship marked by an expansive ma Update July 11, 2019 I first read Crossing To Safety, my first book by Wallace Stegner, in August 2013. It made a deep impression that has lingered over the years. Since then I've read many more books by him, and this is still my favorite Stegner. Original review, Aug 17, 2013 Crossing To Safety is a beautiful novel. It has an unassuming, quiet appeal that resides in its verbal felicity and its thoughtful definition of the worthy life. It celebrates the best of friendship marked by an expansive magnanimity under which folks unrelated to each other may dwell secure. The Langs and Morgans, two young couples, met at the beginning of their academic careers in Madison, Wisconsin, during the Great Depression and became firm friends. The Langs were well connected and lived in Gatsby-like opulence; in contrast, the Morgans came from nondescript backgrounds and were poor. Yet, they were drawn together by a powerful kindred spirit. Their lifelong closeness testified that “a cord of three strands” (in this case, four) “is not easily broken”. The story traced the personal triumphs of the two families, their heartaches, failures, and struggles with ill health. On a personal level, I identified with the portrait Stegner painted of the unhallowed and humbling life in academia. How maddeningly familiar "the squabble and scrabble for tenure" and the publish-or-perish peril! How precious then that Sid Lang and Larry Morgan, unwilling competitors in the English department, were able to take genuine pleasure in each other’s achievements. Sid and Larry each had his fair share of disappointments and rejection, albeit different. What hit home for me was Larry’s reflection that at the end of life, accomplishments, ephemeral like tinsel, mattered little. Stegner left me thinking about the basis of friendship and being thankful for the friends I have. As Terry Tempest Williams suggested in the Introduction, this novel compels us to examine our own relationships and to consider "what risks of the heart are worth taking". For the Langs and Morgans, what stood the test of time and overcame the bugs that sometimes gnawed at their relationship, was the authenticity of their friendship. Enduring friendship truly is a gift. Crossing To Safety is my first Stegner book and it is definitely not my last. I am thrilled to have stumbled on a writer whom I know in my bones will soon become one of my favorite authors.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This is one of my FAVORITE BOOKS.....'ever'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "Angle of Repose" (also by Wallace Stegner), is also one of my favorite top 10 books --(this is the first time I can say ---I 'really'--'really' can claim to have read TWO books by an author that will be forever LIFE-TIME-FAVORITES!!!!! I'm only sorry I waited this long to read "Crossing to Safety". (its timeless). Beautifully written -- Vivid-engaging-(story-telling at its best). Another 'GREAT' book club discussion book (why hasn't our This is one of my FAVORITE BOOKS.....'ever'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "Angle of Repose" (also by Wallace Stegner), is also one of my favorite top 10 books --(this is the first time I can say ---I 'really'--'really' can claim to have read TWO books by an author that will be forever LIFE-TIME-FAVORITES!!!!! I'm only sorry I waited this long to read "Crossing to Safety". (its timeless). Beautifully written -- Vivid-engaging-(story-telling at its best). Another 'GREAT' book club discussion book (why hasn't our book club picked this one to read??) A quote to remember......"I'd rather spend it on Charity" (what is it about that line that has the reader continue to 'think' about this?) ----and 'why' do I find it soooooo pure and beautiful??? (hmmmmmmmmmmmm)...... love it --- loved it.....loved it..... (a book hard to forget --and a book to read again) elyse

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Nicholas

    Crossing to safety was a beautiful book about relationships, how they wax and wane, and friendships that last for a lifetime. The setting was idyllic, I felt as if I was in the story. One of the best books I have ever read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The stars I gave this book are for the writing quality. It is very good writing. The author was very good at metaphor, and a carrying the metaphor throughout the book. I also like his blunt analogies. The author paints a picture by jumping from present to past, to not-so-far in the past, back to the further-back past, back to the present, etc. It's kind of interesting. I'm not sure I like it, but I guess I don't hate it either. The story itself, was kind of boring. I'm not even sure what the book The stars I gave this book are for the writing quality. It is very good writing. The author was very good at metaphor, and a carrying the metaphor throughout the book. I also like his blunt analogies. The author paints a picture by jumping from present to past, to not-so-far in the past, back to the further-back past, back to the present, etc. It's kind of interesting. I'm not sure I like it, but I guess I don't hate it either. The story itself, was kind of boring. I'm not even sure what the book is about, exactly. Yes, it's about the relationships of two couples, but nothing really happens in the book. Even at the end. The book doesn't really have an ending, and only has a very limited amount of resolution. The resolution that is there only resolves an issue that was brought up in the last chapter. There were also a few pieces of the story that were left out or never explained. I suppose the author did it on purpose but I couldn't figure out his reason.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?" Just like this. Gorgeous, wonderful, beautiful. Read this book, especially if you're a fan of Gilead or Jayber Crow. It has the same paced, steady feel. Warning: I bawled through the last quarter. But then it was over and I wanted to start back again at the beginning. Just read it!

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