Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Fiction, 1987

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In his last book before his death, author Wallace Stegner takes a laconic, semi-autobiographical trip by examining the long-time friendship of two couples.

Larry, a talented writer and professor, and his wife Sally are dirt poor when they pull into Madison, Wisconsin for his new job. Their lives are instantly brightened by Charity and her professor husband Syd. The couples form an immediate and lifelong bond based on their love of literature, art, music, and other erudite endeavors.

The book is in no hurry to tell the story, told in flashbacks from Larry’s perspective as he and Sally are called back to Charity’s side as her death nears. The majority of the memories he shares take place in Vermont, where Charity’s family has a compound including a think-cabin, essentially an office, used first by her Father, and later by Syd, to go off  and write. The couples spend summers there, meticulously programmed by Charity.

The focus here isn’t on plot points and as the reader expects something notable to happen, the narrator addresses the reader to say that he’s not writing that kind of book. He is writing a human study, about personalities, and the roles we play in our families, with our friends, and in our lives. The importance of friendships and the work it takes to maintain them defines us as people.

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