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Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner

14/60 | Started 02.20.24 • Finished 03.06.24 | 5 stars

I've been slacking on my book reviews in favor of some other interests, so I'm not sure how complete this one will be! I picked this one up after seeing it highly recommended on a substack I frequent. This is an author I knew nothing of, but the more I looked into this one, I found that Wallace Stegner was, among other things, a prolific and celebrated American novelist. He wrote fourteen novels and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1972. And this particular novel, his last, is considered a classic of American literature.

How lovely it is to be chosen, how flattering to have such bright eyes on you as you divide the light from the darkness.

The basics of the book are that it follows the friendship of two American couples who come to know each other because both men are employed at the same university. The two couples almost immediately strike up a close relationship that spans decades and miles, ups and downs, plenty and lack. Though the setting meanders around the country, it revolves around the Morgan compound in Vermont. The narrator is Sid Lang, a professor, writer, and aspiring novelist, husband of Charity. The story really centers around Sally Morgan, the gregarious and particular wife of Larry, who is hopelessly and completely adoringly in love with her.

Ambition is a path, not a destination, and it is essentially the same path for everybody. No matter what the goal is, the path leads through Pilgrim’s Progress regions of motivation, hard work, persistence, stubbornness, and resilience under disappointment. 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.

I was really blown away by the depth of relationship and character from Stegner. I can see why he's considered a beloved American writer. I think I'm always moved by stories that feature strong friendships that stand the tests of time and space and even personality. I heartily give it five stars and would recommend this book to pretty much anyone.

Hers is a face that does not depend on flesh; it is built from the bones outward. And her skin was tanned, and her brown, freckled hands took hold of me with a bird’s strength when I bent to kiss her. Her voice piped and cracked with excitement, her smile was a window onto an internal incandescence. Her spirit gushed and overflowed and swept us up, making us forget pity, caution, concern, everything but the pleasure of her presence.

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