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Crossing to Safety (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – April 9, 2002
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It's deceptively simple: two bright young couples meet during the Depression and form an instant and lifelong friendship. "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?" Larry Morgan, a successful novelist and the narrator of the story, poses that question many years after he and his wife, Sally, have befriended the vibrant, wealthy, and often troubled Sid and Charity Lang. "Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish?" It's not here. What is here is just as fascinating, just as compelling, as touching, and as tragic.
Crossing to Safety is about loyalty and survival in its most everyday form--the need to create bonds and the urge to tear them apart. Thirty-four years after their first meeting, when Larry and Sally are called back to the Langs' summer home in Vermont, it's as if for a final showdown. How has this friendship defined them? What is its legacy? Stegner offer answers in those small, perfectly rendered moments that make up lives "as quiet as these"--and as familiar as our own. --Sara Nickerson --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Adding to a distinguished body of work that already has earned him a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Awardand on the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first novelStegner's new book is an eloquent, wise and immensely moving narrative. It is a meditation on the idealism and spirit of youth, when the world is full of promise, and on the blows and compromises life inevitably inflicts. Two couples meet during the Depression years in Madison, Wis., and become devoted friends despite vast differences in upbringing and social status. Hard work, hope and the will to succeed as a writer motivate the penurious narrator Larry Morgan and his wife Sally as he begins a term teaching at the university. Equally excited by their opportunities are Sid Lang, another junior man in the English department, and his wife Charity. They are fortune's children, favored with intelligence, breeding and money. Taken into the Langs' nourishing and generous embrace, the Morgans have many reasons for gratitude over the years, especially when Sally is afflicted with polio and the Langs provide financial as well as moral support. During visits at the Langs' summer home on Battell Pond in Vermont and later sharing a year in Florence, the couples feel that they are "four in Eden." Yet the Morgans observe the stresses in their friends' marriage as headstrong, insufferably well-organized Charity tries to bully the passive Sid into a more aggressive mold. Charity is one of the most vivid characters in fiction; if she is arrogant, she is also kindhearted, enthusiastic, stalwart and bravean ardent liver of life. Her incandescent personality is both the dominant force and the source of strain in the enduring friendship Stegner conveys with brilliant artistry. He is also superb at expressing a sense of place, and his intelligent voice makes cogent observations on American society in the decades of his setting. But most importantly, he speaks to us of universal questions, reflecting on "the miserable failure of the law of nature to conform to the dream of man." In doing so, he has created a believable human drama the dimensions of which reach out beyond the story's end and resonate in the reader's heart. BOMC and QPBC alternates; Franklin Library Signed First Edition Society selection.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Following the first chapter, the story reverts to chronological order with how the Langs and Morgans meet at Wisconsin and are instantly drawn to each other. This part also begins the themes of friendship and relationship dynamics that drive the story. The Langs both come from a pressure-filled world of inherited wealth and the Morgans from more humble backgrounds where Larry's father told him to "do what you like to do. It'll probably turn out to be what you do best.". These different backgrounds will play a big part in the Morgans' and Langs' relationship dynamics throughout the book. You can also begin to see the power imbalance that characterizes the Langs' marriage and how that affects the dynamics between both couples.
"Part II" of the book focuses on the Morgans' long stay at Battell Pond, Charity's family's compound in Vermont. I loved this part of the book as it was all about the power of family (especially extended family that "swarmed like termites") and the closeness that can result from having a family gathering spot.
Finally, there is a section where both couples live in Florence, and it was my least favorite. It reads like the travel journal of someone who is obsessed with checking every possible historical site off his/her "to do" list. There's not much description about the places they visit and even less focus on the relationship dynamics, which are the truly interesting part of this book.
The ending is fitting given the relationship dynamics at play, but I was getting bored of it all by that point and just wanted to be finished with the book.
Despite liking some things about Crossing to Safety (the middle of the story and Stegner's writing style, even though it was a bit more pretentious than the simple writing I'm usually drawn to), they just weren't enough to recommend reading it.
For more reviews, check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
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