Crossing To Safety, Thirty Years Later

There is little I can add to any discussion regarding Wallace Stegner’s Crossing To Safety. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers ever, and Crossing to Safety is one of his most beloved books. Count me as a fan of 27+ years, and a renewed lover of this particular book, having just finished it–– more than 28 years after my first time reading it.

I read this book for a book group, in early 1990. When I first read this book, I was a young (new) mother starting out a life with friends who were dear to me, and new babies that we all shared in the care of. The early lives of Sid, Charity, Sally and Larry seemed highly relatable and poignant. While I understood the later part of the story in the lives of these characters, I was wrapped up in my own place and time and anything to come was speculative and fictional. Having just finished this book, after a lifetime of raising three children, living within a marriage that is now 32 years old, and having seen friendships grow and strengthen, as well as fizzle or implode, I read this book with a very different understanding, through entirely different lenses, and with greater emotional depth.

It’s that much more amazing to me now, that Wallace Stegner understood and wrote about so many complexities and contextual nuances of love, time, aging, parenting, grief, ego/hubris, insecurity, commitment… and the vast list of issues this novel explores. I found myself re-reading whole paragraphs over and over, to delve fully into the philosophical and varied dimensions of a life fully lived. The use of art, literature, and philosophy are used to explore this topic, as well as movingly written exchanges between characters to display many of these life phases. Stegner’s brilliance is on every page; his words sing of life. I highlighted so many lines for their sheer beauty, and ability to make me think and feel about my own life. As a writer, I am that much more stunned by the brilliance with which Stegner weaves his words.

The passage of time has only made this book that much more relevant and powerful for me. The literary tapestry was that much more fulfilling. When I first read it, in my first book group, the Depression did not seem that far from memory. Some references were outdated, but not so much as to be strange. With today’s focus on technology and social media, I could not help but wonder how Stegner would see it all now. I was also feeling that much more moved to see the things that time does not change: we all love; we all struggle to find ourselves (whether actively or passively); we grieve; we hurt others and we give shelter to them; we live and we die, and aside from that last one, we do it all over and over again. It is all here in this book.

As a young mother, I saw it all through a unique filter informed by my age and hopes for the future. Reading it now, as the grandmother to a 3 year old boy, watching my own babies––each “grown and flown––” follow the pull of their life journeys, Crossing to Safety moved me and spoke to me in a language that is richer and clearer than it ever could have been so long ago. In no way does that suggest that this is a book for later, but for reading… and then reading again. Crossing to Safety is a book for all time, and it I believe it only grows better with time.

Note: Wallace Stegner published 14 novels and numerous articles, short stories, and works of non-fiction. Angle of Repose won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1971. The Spectator Bird won the National Book Award in 1976. Wallace Stegner died on April 13, 1993, a few days after a car accident. He is remembered with numerous academic scholarships and honors, and for his rich word and deep understanding of what makes us all human.

Have you read Crossing to Safety? Share your thoughts; we don’t have to agree… thought I might plug my ears to any criticism. No, really; I want to know. Leave a comment.

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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6 Responses to Crossing To Safety, Thirty Years Later

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I haven’t read the book, but it sounds thought-provoking, for sure.


  2. I haven’t and will get it today. xoxo


  3. Oona Cava says:

    It’s long been on my to-read list. Thanks Dawn!



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