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Crossing to Safety (1987)

by Wallace Stegner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,5021102,557 (4.16)328
"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."--Jacket.… (more)
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» See also 328 mentions

English (105)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
There's a lot that's beautiful and moving in this book, but also a lot to caution for. The book was written in 1987, but is largely set in the late 1930s, and the characters have the prejudices of their time.

We have: 1) troubling depicting of disability - half inspiration porn, half fetishization; 2) an astonishing number of what we would today call racist microaggressions for a book entirely about white people (primarily due to the characters' tendency to deploy pseudo-Native American speak, etc., jokingly); 3) period-typical sexism.

Plus, outside of period-typical isms, one of the main relationships in the books is founded on emotional abuse.

Despite all of the above, I was touched and inspired by this story of deep friendship and flawed relationships. The writing is clear and evocative (sometimes a little too evocative for my tastes - I'm not one for excessive scene-setting, no matter how expertly done), and while it take some time to get into it, the characters are relatable and their struggles are compelling. This is a complicated book, and I spent a lot of the first two thirds frustrated by its flaws. But by the end, it had me in its grips - not to mention in tears. ( )
  elenaj | Jul 31, 2020 |
A very satisfying read. Sally and Larry Morgan are new to Madison Wisconsin in the 1930's when Larry has taken a job as instructor at the University. They soon meet and become friends with Charity and Sid Lang. The Morgans have a very middle class background; the Lang were born into privilege; however a fast friendship is soon formed.

The story begins there in Wisconsin but ends with the dying of Charity at the family "vacation home". Charity is definitely in charge of the Lang marriage and Sid is a willing follower. The lives and careers of the two families constantly intertwine. Sally is stricken with polio and Sid's career never becomes what Charity had envisioned; however, the ties of friendship are still strong.

This is such a well written book with characters that are so well drawn. The story is told from the viewpoint of Larry but Charity is perhaps the main focus and her relationship with Sid and Sally. This is the story of friendship, perserverance, and loyalty with threads of jealousy, guilt, and gratitude or indebtedness. ( )
  maryreinert | Jun 25, 2020 |
Set in thirties America, this is a story about two couples. The husbands work together at the University of Wisconsin in the English department and meet at the social events and parties. Charity and Sally are both expecting with the babies due more of less at the same time.

They hit it off and start to spend lots of time together. Sid and Charity are financially secure, and Larry and Sally are right on the edge with regards to money. Charity is the great organiser and she sets about arranging further events and parties.

It is a time of great hardship in America and the story ebbs and flows with the two couples successes, failures, traumas and joys. It is never sensational, and you have a sense of the character growing and changing in response to the events and as they age

The writing is effortless, calm, confident and eloquent. I hadn't read anything before by Stegner, something that I may need to reconsider. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Of course I completely missed this author until now but I have his works to read ahead of me. Beautiful writing---descriptions that absorb the reader. The complex relationship between Larry and Sid and Sally and Chastity make for an exposure of human beings and their reactions to the same set of happenings. Reading what other readers have written....I agree with those with five stars...a book not to be missed. ( )
  nyiper | Feb 27, 2020 |
I was underwhelmed by this one by Stegner. I think he was mistaken when he thought he could make this story of lifelong friendship that compelling. For one thing, the characters are not particularly interesting, and in one case, downright annoying. The narrator is slightly obnoxious: well educated but rather pompous. He doesn’t seem to be able to fill his perceived shoes, as he is not successful as a writer despite his tendency to be exultant on how easily he is able to churn out his novels, stories, and reviews. Fortunately, wealthy friends are there at every turn to help him and his wife along, although the text never really makes it quite clear why they are so enamored beyond some common intellectual interests.

Another disconcerting feature of the personalities is their willful ignorance or just plain disinterest in the alarming world events around them — they seem to live outside society. The lack of mention of what should be the very visible pain of the Depression and the horror of the worst war humankind has seen did not allow me to like any of them. Oh wait, there is one mention of the war, as our narrator just dismisses the events in Europe as not really worthy of serious thought. They are much too busy making plans for their next get-together at that idyllic lake in Vermont (most of whose shoreline one couple owns).

The fact is, one couple is spoiled by the inherited wealth, and no amount of their generosity can really make me feel a lot of compassion for their selfish lifestyle. We have to read one scene after another of them bailing out their friends, leading to a tedious slog only relieved by an occasional crisis. But since the novel is told in flashbacks, we can’t get too worried, especially during one life-threatening event.

In between crises, there’s a lot of kumbaya good vibes, with lots of mutual admiration society pronouncements bouncing back and forth.

I didn’t like the depiction of the women characters. One is the annoying person mentioned earlier, the other is rather passive, and the two guys go along with the bossy behavior in the interest of maintaining the peace. In other words, they are all trapped in a dysfunctional friendship dominated by one person.

There are two instances of Jewish characters, on the periphery of this very, very WASPish environment. The first is a couple at the university (clearly the University of Wisconsin) who are both unpleasant; and the husband of the Lang’s daughter, who is (for no discernible reason) given a stutter. There is one instance of Sid Lang imitating a Jew thusly: “Vot’s to get vet?” Also, along the way there are stereotypical imitations of “rednecks” and Chinese. Now, I know that these are intelligent WASPs wisecracking and thinking they are being funny, but this sort of stuff hardly makes them likable, even considering the pre-PC times. And it makes me think that Stegner was tone-deaf when it came to other cultures.

The ending is a long, drawn-out melodramatic scene that I suppose was intended to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, but after 300 pages of mostly banal, self-satisfied dreck, I basically didn’t care. On page 241 of my copy, the narrator asks the rhetorical question: “How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?” The answer for me is: you can’t, unless the reader is not very demanding. ( )
  nog | Feb 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stegner, WallaceAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Low, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smiley, JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.

Robert Frost
For M.P.S., in gratitude for more than half a century of love and friendship, and to the friends we were both blessed by.
First words
Floating upward through a confusion of dreams and memory. curving like a trout through the rings of previous risings, I surface.
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This is a novel by one of the grand masters of American fiction, about two couples who form a fast-and lifelong-friendship. It begins in the mid-thirties, in mid-Depression, when a nice, bright couple from the West with gifts and dreams but no prospects or connections meets a nice, bright couple from the East with wealth-and the generosity to share.

Set against the backgrounds of several beautifully rendered and most typical American landscapes, the story of the friendship between Larry and Sally Morgan and Sid and Charity Land makes for fiction of humor, sadness, and celebration, that rare novel which the reader declares a gift. Mr. Stegner brilliantly brings to life America as it changes, grows older, evolves, and how the Langs and the Morgans do the same. Each stumbles through life supported by the others, yet in that support, Mr. Stegner renders the occasional penalties of closeness and loyalty, the occasional perils of asking forgiveness. Each achieves a different safety by a different means, yet all are held together by the love of friends.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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