Tag Archives: Wallace Stegner

Book Club Reflection: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

14 Dec

I absolutely loved this book. Like some others I’ve loved, it’s hard to put my finger on a reason, but I loved it. The language was beautiful and there was not a single sentence I would have taken out. I was glad to find much of my book group felt the same way.

Stegner was born in Iowa in 1909 and got his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1935. He worked at the University of Wisconsin (like Sid and Larry), Harvard, and eventually Stanford. He died in 1993 in a car crash. He’s very prolific, in both fiction and non-fiction and wrote late into his life.

What we liked about the book is that it was less of a drama. There was nothing spectacular about the characters’ lives, it was just their story and their lives born very plainly for us to read. It was the language of the book that was really beautiful. A lot of us felt that Stegner was talking about friends he knew in real life but knew he could never do them the justice they deserved. There’s a great quote on page 230 that reflects this.

“—Hallie, you’ve got the wrong idea of what writers do. They don’t understand any more than other people. They invent only plots they can resolve. They ask the questions they can answer. Those aren’t people that you see in books, those are constructs. Novels or biographies, it makes no difference. I couldn’t reproduce the real Sid and Charity Lang, much less explain them; and if I invented them I’d be falsifying something I don’t want to falsify.”

I love this so much. When I write a character for my book, it’s only as true as it can be. There’s no perfect reproduction of a person because that person is someone different to everyone they know. My impression of my husband would be different from his friends or his mother’s or his brother’s. One of our members thought that Stegner might have been in love with a woman like Charity, but that she didn’t seem real. To him, perhaps, she was as amazing as Charity, but to someone else, she might have been insufferable. She seemed, in Larry’s eyes, ‘over done’ and fake to some readers.

The title was cause for a good debate in our group. The quote comes from a Robert Frost poem, a stanza of which appears in my copy:

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.

None of us are quiet poets so if there’s a Reader out there who would care to interpret that for us, please do share. A separate explanation we thought of was how Larry seemed to feel out-of-place a lot. He was an orphan from the Southwest trying to make it as an esteemed professor in the Midwest. I’ve heard many times that people who move away from where they were raised feel like a pretender in the new area. Same goes for those jumping classes. Larry seemed to feel this for a long time. He didn’t feel he fit in with the Langs, commenting on what they had as far as family and money. Only when he’s in Italy, his debts paid off and his daughter away at school, does he finally feel he’s come into the life he’s been living for a long time. He’s found safety in his life with Sally and the Lang’s after a long time wondering.

Our group read Stegner’s other novel The Angle of Repose before I started this blog. The chapter where Larry tells about the beginning of Sid and Charity’s relationship reminded us of this book. In Repose, the writer imagines his grandmother and grandfather as they would have been when first married. Larry does something similar with the Langs. We thought it was beautiful and really well written. Many of us were reminded of a fairy tale.

A scene we all wanted to talk about was Sid burning the tea. Why would he do that? He was right for once, but he let her get away with not trusting him and made her right by default! It was so infuriating. Looking back, it was a prelude to him following her plan when he died. He fought her and gave in by the end. It was how he operated. That scene served well to help the reader understand Charity’s personality and her need to control everything. She always needed to be in charge. When Sid was in charge, boats capsized and people almost drowned. It was better when Charity was in charge.

We felt that Sally had the healthiest relationship with Charity. Charity tried to control Sally less than anyone else. The only time we felt Charity did control her was when she planned their first summer together in Vermont. Charity had the whole thing figured out and it would solve all of their problems; Sally would be crazy not to go along with it. There were little ways she asserted her influence over Larry, washing the dishes with Sid being a great example. Charity was just like her mother: the matriarch of the house. Nothing happened that she didn’t notice. She wanted Sid to be like her father: a rich professor who’s well respected. When he didn’t achieve that, she was upset.

There was a big flip in the relationship between the Langs and the Morgans. At first, the Langs were the providers, having the money and home to help Sally and Larry through a rough time in their lives. Later, when Larry has achieved fame with his fiction, he’s able to use his influence to help Sid get a job. This must have been unsettling for them all. Maybe it’s part of why Sally and Larry moved back to the Southwest. I think they were uncomfortable with how the relationship was developing.

We couldn’t talk about this book without mentioning the strongest character; Sally. The descriptions of her in Europe blew our minds. It was obviously hard for her to walk and that she did it on cobblestones and up European staircases is amazing. Sally and Larry help each other through life and keep each other grounded and this is the biggest similarity between them and the Langs. They are all bound to their spouse indefinitely. Sid brings this up toward the end of the book when speaking to Larry.

“…I admint I’ve taken a kind of comfort from your bad luck. I’ve seen someone else tied and helpless, though for very different reasons. You’ve been constant, a rock, and I’ve admired you for that. But I’ve wondered what your life might have been if Sally hadn’t got polio. You were upward bound when we first knew you, headed up like a rocket. Success might have taken you away from her—you wouldn’t have been the first one. You’ve done a lot anyway, but maybe not all you might have done if you hadn’t had the greater obligation of looking after her. I think your marriage did to you something like what mine did to me.”

I think this passage is beautiful and sad. It speaks to the love each has for their wife, but also makes it seem that they could have been more without the woman in their lives. I don’t think that’s true of either character. I think both were the men they were because of their wives, not in spite of them.

It was a great discussion. In January, we’ll meet to discuss Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel One Hundred Years of Solitude and I get to lead the discussion! WOOOO.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Challenge Update, November 2015

1 Dec

This was not a big month for me reading. I had a final early in the month and then did NaNoWriMo, so books were less of a priority than normal, unfortunately. I want to use the rest of this year to dig in and finish as many as I can so I hope to not say this again in 2015  You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in November:

Fahrenheit 451 // Ray Bradbury
The Diary of a Young Girl // Anne Frank
Crossing to Safety // Wallace Stegner

I wanted to finish Pride and Prejudice this month, but I didn’t quite make it.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

13/13
Challenge Completed!
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it here. My timeline will track all of my books and show which time period they fall into, but it’s a little behind on the updates.

Goodreads Challenge

51/50
Challenge Completed!
I’m so excited to have finished my challenge this month! It made a slow reading month seem a lot more productive than it was. 50 was a good goal for me, I’ll probably stick to it or something similar for next year. My shortened commute makes it harder to finish audiobooks in a timely manner.

Book of the Month

Crossing to SafetyI absolutely loved Crossing to Safety. I hope to do the book review soon before I forget any of the small details, but I really liked the book and it’s an obvious choice for the month.

Added to my TBR

I did so well this month. My self-pride is going to be way out of proportion for the kind of accomplishment this really is (no accomplishment), but I’m so proud of this.

  • Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt (I had to read Goldratt’s other book, The Goal in school and liked how he wrote about business. I’d like to see him do it again!)

My total TBR is down 2 total and now sits at 142. I so got this, haha.

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re doing better than me! If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-November-2015

18 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


All The LightCurrently reading:  I’m still trucking through Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell during lunch. I’m actually making decent progress now that it’s back to the characters I’m interested in. I can’t find the connection between future Korea and the old British guy in the nursing home yet. I’m hoping that one becomes clearer soon.
Nothing with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. If everything goes well, maybe by the end of the year.
I’m picked up again with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. It’s still early on and I’m reminded what frustrates me about writing from that era, but I’m trying to look past it!
About half-way through Animal Farm by George Orwell. This will have to wait a while before I get into it heavily again because of my new audiobook.
I got All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr on audiobook. I wasn’t expecting it to come in so soon, but I’m excited it did! I only get this for three weeks so I’ll have to work at getting through this chunkster before my hold expires.

AnneFrankRecently finished: Two this week. The first is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. It ends so abruptly that I wasn’t ready for it and thought I was starting a new disk on my way home. The final disk was a series of afterward and essays. I really liked those because it gave good context to the story. I rated it 5/5 Stars.
Saturday morning I finished Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. He’s a wonderful writer and I’m so glad I read this. I’ve read his two mos popular books now and his other ones seem to be significantly less popular so I’m not sure I’ll get to that any time soon.

One review this past week, for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’ll have a book club discussion for this in December so look forward to that as well.

100 yearsReading Next: I’m still planning on Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven after I finish S&S. It’s come so highly recommended by you all that I’m itching to pick it up.
I have another book club book waiting for me by my bedside, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is a book I recommended to the group so I hope I enjoy it and I hope others do, too. If not, I’ll have a lot to answer for, haha.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-November-2015

11 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Animal FarmCurrently reading:  I’ve had the chance to read a little bit of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell during lunch once or twice this week. It’s keeping me moving forward, but I’m still not engrossed enough to power through to the end. Hopefully, that will come soon.
Nothing with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.
I’ve decided ‘engrossing’ is a good word for how I feel about The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. She’s such a talented writer and I’m always itching to listen to more.
Nothing with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen but it looks so tempting on my bedside!
I hope to finish Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner very soon. I’m completely engrossed in the characters, but my finals this weekend are taking up a lot of time! I’d love to say I’ll have more time after that, but then I’m doing the second half of NaNo. I can’t wait for December when my world calms down!
I’m slowly getting into Animal Farm by George Orwell. I was stuck on the introduction for a long time and the story is just starting to pick up.

Recently finished: I’m so sad to say I didn’t finish anything this week! I’m ashamed now, but I’m hoping this number goes up a lot when school is over!

On the bright side, I did post one book review this week. Please go and check out my review of Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses which I gave 3 Stars.

Station ElevenReading Next: My book club met on Monday and we’ve got our next book. I’ll be reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and I’m really excited about it! Station Eleven was chosen as the Great Michigan Read for 2015-2016 so there will be a lot of discussions and events focused on this book. Get ready for a flood of posts on it!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 4-November-2015

4 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Crossing to SafetyCurrently reading:  Fewer doctors appointments so fewer chances to read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Take the good with the bad, I guess.
No progress with  I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai still.
It feels weird to say I’m enjoying The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, but I’m very impressed with it. Anne’s diary is so eloquent and full of great details, two things mine never were.
No progress with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. It keeps tempting me on the bedside table.
I’m loving Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. He’s a beautiful writer and this is a ‘stay in bed’ book for me. I can’t wait to get back to it.
It turns out what I thought was an audiobook of Slaughterhouse Five was an ebook and I’m not starting one of those right now. So instead I picked up Animal Farm by George Orwell. My husband has recommended this for a long time so I’m looking forward to it.

451Recently finished: I finished off Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury early this week. I’m glad I didn’t remember a lot of the story because the whole thing surprised me and it was fun to keep reading it.

Only one book review this week for Made in America by Bill Bryson. Thank you to those who commented on this saying his other books are quite different. That’s very reassuring to me!

Reading Next: Honestly, I don’t have plans for anything right now! I have two ebooks, two physical books, and I just started an audiobook so I’m actually not thinking ahead right now. This is kind of refreshing.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-October-2015

28 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


AnneFrankCurrently reading:  I’ve had enough long waits at doctor’s offices this past week to make some progress with  Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m at about 60% or so and I’ll make my way to the end soon enough.
No progress with  I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.  It’s coming…
I’m getting close to the end of  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’m enjoying it a lot. Bradbury makes for good fall reading. Even though he’s not writing horror, his books have a creepy vibe to them that goes well with Halloween.
I started the audiobook for The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank late last week. The play stuck really close to the transcript so there haven’t been a lot of surprises yet and I don’t think there will be a ton. I’m blown away by how insightful Anne is and how well-written her diary is. It’s such a testament to how writing is less of an art these days.
I’ve only got through the very beginning of Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenI hope to get back to reading this seriously around Christmas.
My book club met Monday night and we’re picking up Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner for our next meeting. We’ve read Stegner’s book The Angle of Repose a few years ago and really enjoyed it so this one should be fun!

Made in AmericaRecently finished: I finished Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson on Thursday. I should know better than to do non-fiction in audio because it’s hard to get into it when it’s read aloud. I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.
Saturday morning I refused to get out of bed until I’d finished Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. I was hoping for a bigger ending, but I was still happy with how it ended. The writing was beautiful even if I felt the plot was a bit slow for my taste. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars as well.

Two book reviews in this past week. I’ve been keeping up well! The first was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I gave the book 4 our of 5 stars.
The second was The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama. I had mixed feelings on that one and gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

SlaughterhouseReading Next: I’m still planning on Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut being my next audiobook. I don’t have a lot of plans besides that because of how many books I’m starting into. Stay tuned for sudden changes in plans.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 15-July-2015

15 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Invisible BridgeCurrently reading:  My hold on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell came in! I hope to get some reading done on this one. I’ve had a lot more ebook time lately because I’m in physical therapy for runners knee and between waiting in the lobby to be called back and doing warm up on a recumbent bike, I get a few pages in each day.
Consequently, I’m letting my hold on I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai expire for now. When I finish Atlas, I hope to pick this backup.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is going well. I’m beyond the point of the first movie and this is the part I don’t remember too well. It’s getting excited. I’ve set aside my PT exercise time as Mockingjay time.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is going slowly. As I feared, with my new commute, I don’t get as much audiobook time. I’m on the third CD of 22. I hope I can renew this one a few times!
I’m really enjoying Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. I love the Titanic so the setting has me really excited. I forgot how much her writing style makes for a quick read and I’m plowing through it. Hope to have this one finished next week.

HotelRecently finished: I cried while finishing Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. The ending was a huge heartbreaker for me and I really loved it. Though I was reminded a bit of The Orphan Train with the ending and kind of saw it coming. Oh well, still a good story.

A couple of reviews for you to check out as well. The first is A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. The long journey through the first book is finally over!
The second is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan. This was my favorite book of June and I highly recommend it!

Crossing to SafetyReading Next: I should get my copy of A Widow for One Year by John Irving next week so that’s forthcoming. There are a few other possibilities, though. My next book club selections are Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. I might jump on those early if I get a chance so I’m not stopping midbook to read one of them later this month. You have to plan ahead as a bookworm!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!