Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

photograph of the author via

Reviewed by Christine-Chioma

Published: 1987

It's about: The book follows the lives of two married couples who meet and become friends while living in Madison, Wisconsin during the height of the Depression. The book explores the small details of their inner lives, the complex nuances of their friendships, and the minutiae of their marriages.

I thought: This is an intricate and well-crafted novel. Although it is not plot driven, I eagerly read it quickly. It was fascinating for me to read about the realistic quiet lives. I loved how interesting Stegner made situations that occur in every day life. It made me think a lot about the intimacies of friendships and the small details that make people whom they are. The novel is focused and well-written. I could tell that every detail was deliberate. I really came to know the Langs and Morgans. The introduction of my copy calls the book a "modern classic" and I'd have to agree. Since graduating from BYU in English I never wanted to read another scholarly article analyzing a work of literature  but this book (KIND OF) gives me that desire. It is one of those books that I think about over and over even after it is finished.

Reading Recommendation: I enjoyed this piece on Stegner. It gives a lot of information about him as an author and gives insight into some of his writing decisions. After reading the book I was very curious about the meaning of the title which is explained in the piece: "Stegner says there is a kind of crossing to safety for each character in the novel. 'Every one of these four lives crosses to a different kind of safety. And crosses something different. And takes with him something different." The Paris Review also had a good interview with Stegner.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf or Rubbish Bin? Stick it on the shelf!

Warnings: I purposely read this book because it is squeaky clean

Favorite excerpts:

"And so, by circuitous and unpredictable routes, we converge toward midcontinent and meet in Madison, are are at once drawn together, braided and plaited into a friendship. It 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."

"No cautionary words had any effect on her. If you wanted something, you planned for it, worked for it and made it happen"

"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 something 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"

"Why? Because they are who they are. Why are they so helplessly who they are? Unanswered questions, perhaps unanswerable. In nearly forty years, neither had been able to change the other by as much as a punctuation mark."

"But Charity and Sally are stitched together with a thousand threads of feeling and shared experience. Each is for the other that one unfailingly understanding and sympathetic fellow-creature that everybody wishes for and many never find."

What I'm reading next: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom