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Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
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Crossing to Safety (original 1987; edition 1990)

by Wallace Stegner

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2,399None2,585 (4.19)185
Member:KatherineGregg
Title:Crossing to Safety
Authors:Wallace Stegner
Info:Penguin Books (1990), Paperback, 341 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:polio, death, friendship, marriage, cancer

Work details

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Earle Stegner (1987)

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Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Ironically, the author says " How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? ". Wallace Stegner seizes upon these things in this novel and makes it satisfying for readers. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Ironically, the author says " How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these? ". Wallace Stegner seizes upon these things in this novel and makes it satisfying for readers. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
3.5 stars

This is a simple story about two married couples, friends. When Larry and Sally move to Wisconsin in the late 1930s for Larry to start a teaching job as a professor, they meet Sid and Charity and begin a life-long friendship.

The book starts in “current-day” and goes back in time for most of the first half to when they first met. It then goes back and forth for a while and it ends during the current-day again. I enjoyed this more than I expected to, but there was a section in the first bit where I completely lost interest, as it was pretty much filled with intellectual/literary conversation. I could have done without that. Otherwise, it was a good story. That being said, I hated Charity. She did some nice things, and was a good friend to Sally, but her personality! *Shudder. I think I liked the current-day stuff better than the reminiscences, but I think we had to get to know Charity and Sid from back then before we learned the end of the book. Overall, it turned out to be a good read and I'm glad I read it. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 12, 2014 |
A moving story of friendship and a deeply realized portrayal of the inner life of two marriages, this is one of Stegner's finest works. The story unfolds the lives of two couples who meet at the beginning of the husbands' professional lives as newly hired English instructors at the University of Wisconsin in 1938. Larry Morgan (the narrator) and his wife Sally have arrived from California as Morgan takes a temporary job in the English department. Sid Lang and his wife Charity have preceded the Morgan's by a year. Their friendship is immediate and the novel follows its path throughout their lives until the early 1970's. Morgan (certainly a fictionalized Stegner) is a highly gifted writer who had hoped to receive a permanent appointment to the Madison faculty. Lang, a poet by preference, but pushed toward scholarly endeavors by his ambitious wife, Charity, has nowhere the talent of Morgan. As young newly wed couples they have an immediate and deep attraction to each other. Morgan has come from an ordinary working class, non-intellectual family and has remarkable natural talent that grows ever richer over the years. Lang comes from a wealthy family from Pittsburgh and weds Charity, the daughter of a renowned Harvard professor and his strong willed wife. Charity, a major focus of the novel, is portrayed as woman obsessed by advancing her husband's academic career. This is a manifestation of her compulsion to organize and direct the lives of those around her. Her husband Sid is a constant disappointment as he does not rise to the level of academic success that she wishes him to attain. While generous, loving and well-intentioned, Charity's domineering behavior creates tension, particulary with Larry, throughout the couples' long friendship. Morgan's wife, Sally, is a sensitive and intelligent woman who contracts polio early in the course of their marriage. She carries her disability with determination, not looking for sympathy or accommodation and Larry remains devoted. Their relationship continues to deepen as time passes, while the Lang's marriage, though sound, is always clouded by her overbearing nature and her implicit disappointment in her husband's failures.

The Lang's have independent wealth from Sid's family. They help out the penurious Morgan's as his career is just beginning to grow and as Sally's medical expenses confront them. The financial aid is offered without condescension and accepted by the Morgan's without creating a feeling of dependency. As Morgan's successes bear fruit, the financial assistance is repaid. The story follows the intersections of their lives over decades. Charity's patrician uncle assists Larry in gaining a job as an editor in his small publishing firm. This offers him the chance to devote more time to writing and he becomes prolific. Sid Lang failed to achieve tenure at Wisconsin and he and Charity take a hiatus of several years in the family vacation compound in Vermont. Larry, through a contact from his wartime experience in the War Department, finagles a faculty position for Larry at Dartmouth, where he finally achieves tenure if not recognition as a scholar or writer. The families spend a year together in Italy where they explore the deep channels of art and culture. Larry has received a Guggenheim fellowship and Sid is on sabbatical from Dartmouth.

The story begins and concludes with the Morgan's visit to the Vermont compound where Charity is dying of cancer. Her dying experience, like her life over the years, is orchestrated by her iron determination that it will played out in the way she sees necessary for the good of others. She even goes to the point of compiling a list of women from whom Sid should select for remarriage. The unselfishness of Charity's plan for making her passing easier on others really portrays the zenith of her life long selfishness, that her determination to shape and control other's lives -- people she genuinely loves -- is for their benefit, but as she sees it. Sid is greatly affected by his wife's exclusion of him from sharing in her last days, but he survives and, it is suggested, will go on, probably stronger.

Stegner's portrayal of the two couples, and of the marriages of each, is rich and subtle, with great depth of insight into human relationships. There is nothing artificial nor, certainly, sensational about the events and dynamics of these lifelong relationships. The work surely must be in large part autobiographical, the telling of the experiences of Stegner and his wife and their friends over a period of years. As in Stegner's other works, the writing is magical and the insights gentle but wonderfully profound. ( )
1 vote stevesmits | Dec 26, 2013 |
This is a beautifully written story about the friendship between two academic couples over the course of their lives. The parts about being young and poor in academia, and the gift of being sought out and generously loved during those years, are, unsurprisingly, the parts that resonated with me most strongly. The later parts disappointed me a bit, perhaps because they were focused more on the Langs and their marriage than on the friendship between the four of them. I just love Stegner's writing, though; it takes me back to a time when the love of language was one of the animating joys of my life. This book is the first thing I've read in a good while that has made me want to write again. ( )
  LudieGrace | Dec 4, 2013 |
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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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Book description
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.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037575931X, Paperback)

It's deceptively simple: two bright young couples meet during the Depression and form an instant and lifelong friendship. "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?" Larry Morgan, a successful novelist and the narrator of the story, poses that question many years after he and his wife, Sally, have befriended the vibrant, wealthy, and often troubled Sid and Charity Lang. "Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish?" It's not here. What is here is just as fascinating, just as compelling, as touching, and as tragic.

Crossing to Safety is about loyalty and survival in its most everyday form--the need to create bonds and the urge to tear them apart. Thirty-four years after their first meeting, when Larry and Sally are called back to the Langs' summer home in Vermont, it's as if for a final showdown. How has this friendship defined them? What is its legacy? Stegner offer answers in those small, perfectly rendered moments that make up lives "as quiet as these"--and as familiar as our own. --Sara Nickerson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"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)

(summary from another edition)

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