Crossing to Safety

Thoughts ctsbyws by Wallace Stegner, Modern Library 2002 (orig 1987), 368 pages

Challenge: Personal
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: tradeback, my own library – perhaps from a booksale?
 Why I read this now: A trip! wanted a physical book after all that ebooking.

MOTIVATION for READING: This is a slim book and seems on glance to be less than the 368 pages it boasts; I took it along on my travels. I’ve been wanting to get to this ‘sooner than later’ and yet it seems eons ago when I put it on my READ NEXT shelf.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: This is a story of two marriages and the four individuals within the two couples and the long-lasting friendship they were able to maintain. It is quiet, it is powerful, it is almost metaphysical. Admittedly, I’m an idiot in using the word ‘metaphysical’ so I could be wrong. We are only inside one of the character’s head.

WHAT’s GOOD: The insights into human nature, the characters, the travels over time and place – a university setting and “a writer’s life” in the 30s through the wars and beyond.

What’s NOT so good: I have no criticisms other than WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG?!

FINAL THOUGHTS: I was totally blown away at times by the power of the simple writing. The reader is very aware that this is a skilled capable competent author and never showing off or being experimental. And yet I was often surprised by the originality. So good.

On the other hand, it makes me feel very inadequate. My words, my review, my understanding of what Stegner wanted me to learn from this book or only to appreciate feels like I missed it or just that I have no capacity to share what it was. Even the title, what does it mean? What does it mean that I didn’t even contemplate the meaning until I was reading other reviews of this book? And what does it mean in reference to ‘living a life’ without even delving deeper into ‘living a meaningful life’? Ok, stop already.

RATING: Five slices of pie. Custard pie!

“When you’re nailing a custard pie to the wall, and it starts to wilt, it doesn’t do any good to hammer in more nails.”

 The Inferno boiled with hot life, but the Paradiso was theological meringue.”  p.255

LINKS: Also, must mention a coinky-dink between this book and The Library at Mount Char:  in one scene, it is mentioned that “there’s no decent literature on how to die.” But in Library at Mount Char, this is specifically addressed. Makes me wonder if Scott Hawkins read Stegner… Filed it away. Put it in his book so I could read it and then read this and say, “huh”.

(Teaser – there’s also a link between this and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett; I will address when I review that…)



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12 thoughts on “Crossing to Safety

  1. Hooray!! You loved it!! If I had to choose one favorite novel, this would be it…and now I’m so ready for a reread. Angle of Repose is also wonderful and I loved The Big Rock Candy Mountain (his most autobiographical novel) on audio.

    1. I would so reread this. Not many books are on the reread list. I never seem to get around to it.
      Is Big Rock Candy Mountain also a song? I *know* I have heard of it! And Angle of Repose is a Pulitzer so of course it is on my tbr.

  2. This book is on my list – in fact, I found it for 50 cents at a used clothing store one day while waiting for my daughter to find an ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ for school. Hopefully, I’ll read it soon!

    I love bookish coincidences. I’m curious to hear about the one you found in State of Wonder (which, I just saw, that you rated highly on GR – glad you liked it so much! Makes me want to re-read it…)

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