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Book Review: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (5/5)

8 Dec

Wow, I’m writing this a long time after finishing the book. Thanks, NaNo. I wish I’d been able to do it sooner because this is a book I enjoyed a lot. I read another Stegner book a few years ago, went into it thinking I’d hate it, and ended up loving it. This time, I went in with high expectations and they were met.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

When I first read that summary, I thought it was too short and didn’t do this book justice. But then again, I don’t think you need to know any more about it. It’s a simple book, really, telling the story of four people whose lives are intermixed and how they live together. It’s a slow novel, but it’s amazing. Stegner’s power over words is incredible and it blew me away what he was able to do with this simple story. I kept clasping the book to my chest and sighing as I read it and my husband wondered what I could be reading! Amazing words didn’t seem plausible. I can’t recommend Stegner’s writing enough.

I thought Sally, Larry, and Sid were very well written, but I thought Charity was a bit over the top. I’m a control freak as well, but some of the things she did were over the top. Especially the end! I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but she goes a bit extreme in her desire to control everything around her. What’s worse is how Sid let her get away with it. He would give in to small things that let Charity be right all the time and come out of every situation on top. It was a bit infuriating and made me dislike her character even more.

The way Stegner writes lets  you relate to all of the characters. I related to some of the control-freak in Charity, myself being someone who likes to have things set in a certain way and follow it. I related to the part of Sid that wanted to make his spouse happy at any cost. There are many football games I’ve watched/been to with my husband to make him happy even when it put me in an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation. I related to Larry’s dedication to Sally and his slow and steady way of life with her and I related to Sally and her obstacles. Anything in life can be a problem for Sally if she let it, but she wouldn’t. It’s much the same way for everyone.

Wallace Stegner Image via Wikipedia

Wallace Stegner
Image via Wikipedia

I enjoyed the beginning of the book the most. I thought Charity and Sally were at their best when they were pregnant together. Before anyone’s world started falling apart, they were all at their happiest and seeing their friendship blossom was most enjoyable. The parts that came after were very ‘real’ and how hard they hit home made them harder to read.

I didn’t like the scenes in Italy. I didn’t think it added very much to the story. There were a few scenes that emphasized characterization, especially of Sally and Charity, but I didn’t see any of it as a turning point for the characters and I think the book would have been the same for me had that part been cut.

Every relationship looks funny from the outside. I’m sure my relationship with my husband or my mother might be strange to some people. But on the inside, it’s perfect. The relationship between Sid and Charity seemed weird, even to Larry, but they were happy. They couldn’t have survived without one another. I’m sure the relationship between all four seemed weird to some others as well. Larry comments a few times about how you would think something wrong was going on between the four of them, but it never did. They loved each other as strongly as family and that might have seemed odd from the outside, too. In the end, we can’t judge a relationship that works because there could be a million reasons why it works and those million would be different from the reasons why your own relationships work. They’re all different.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t know if I could replicate it, but Stegner’s turn of phrase is amazing. It’s beautiful and depicts what he wants to say perfectly. I wanted to find an example and turned to a random page. Here’s what I found:

I was writing up a New Mexico snowstorm and I had it coming down thick and heavy, muffling the roads and mounding on adobe walls and windowsills and whitening the pinons and junipers when the tapping came on the door.

Am I the only one who thinks that’s beautiful?

Great book, great read. A full Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner | Book Snob
Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety | Tales from the Reading Room
Review: Wallace Stegner. Crossing to Safety. (1987), New York: The Modern Library. 2002. | Diamond Sharp
Book Review Friday – Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner | P.C. Zick