Monday, October 17, 2011
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Reading Stegner is, for me, like curling up in some kind of mystical giant hammock. He surrounds you. The world he shows you makes no qualms about being filled with both the beautiful and the hard, and that one is not really recognizable without the other.
Crossing to Safety is about a friendship between two couples, that is its heart. It's about how the lives of four people are woven together through decades of interchange, dependence (in all its forms) and shared memories. From their early days in Madison, Wisconsin during the Depression, the Langs and the Morgans knew that what they had was a friendship that would last - but of course, years and trials can take their toll and after a while there is a solidity in just having known someone so well for so long.
What Stegner does so well is take us back and forth through time, fleshing out a relationship from the narrator's male point of view, allowing us a glimpse inside everyone's shared experience. I love how this is a story about people who are readers and writers, striving to be a part of an intellectual community, see-ers of the world and all it has to offer. Beyond the beautifully arching plot that follows an adult lifetime, his insights are so compatible with my own knowledge of friendships, especially between couples.
It's like in this one story he peeled away part of what it is to be human, looking at the underneath of why we do what we do and how our relationships guide and define our lives in so many ways. I had all these thoughts about "owing" people, how we show people how much we appreciate them and the things they do for us that can't even be defined in words. I thought about how sometimes a friendship is flawed and unbalanced and yet looking back, those imperfections would never have been enough to dislodge that person from our heart.
I want to compare Crossing to Safety to some kind of work of genius, but I've never read anything like it. Just trust me that its one you hold close to your heart and give to people you really care about.
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