Saturday, 4 November 2017

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

This  is  my first novel by Wallace Stegner , and certainly not the last .What does  crossing to safety mean? We have life- long friendships and relationships  which  keep changing over  time .Then a  stage  comes  when we get reconciled and achieve our safety  in those friendships and relationships , accepting  and loving our friends , spouses as also accepting ourselves. This stage one has to cross  into  through much soul searching .This novel , published in 1987 ,was written by Wallace Stegner when he was 78 year old. He has  also described  in it the insecurities of old age , increasing fragility of body  as also the enduring  love in marriage. “We all  hoped in whatever way our capacities permitted  . .. . . to leave a mark on the world..Instead , the world  has left  marks on us. We got older.Life chastened us  so that  now we lie  waiting to die”. But Stegner  makes survival a grace , rather than a necessity.
Stegner  emphasises the role of luck in life: ’’Talent lies around us  like kindling waiting for a match, but some people , just as gifted as others , are less lucky. Fate never drops a match on them”. And the role of plans in our life: ’’You can plan all you want to .You can lie in your morning bed  and fill  whole note books with schemes and intentions .But within a single afternoon,  within hours or minutes, every thing you plan  and everything you fought to make yourself, can be  undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam, you can still believe you are doing fine”. So, you need not set specific goals in life.
                       The novel has four characters -Larry , his wife Sally , Sid and his wife Charity. The story is narrated by Larry Morgan .Charity starts the friendship  between families , which  grows into life long relationship among the two couples. The couples meet during the Depression years in Madison , Wisconsin.They have differences in their upbringing , social and financial condition  but their friendship survives all these differences.Over the time , Larry becomes successful writer. Sally   gets afflicted by Polio. Sid Lang  is fired from the post  at Madison , with the result that he and Charity  are forced to stay , along with children at their family’s estate at Vermount.
        Charity  has a nature of controlling her husband Sid as also every one around her. At times , this takes  a dangerous and darkening aspect. She often bullies Sid aggressively. Charity  is novel’s fulcrum and creates strain in the friendship also. She knows that she is dying of cancer , but still , she tries to controls the condition of her death.

     Cossing to Safety seeps into you slowly , as you keep reading .The  language is superb  and the  book is full of insights. Long after you have read the  novel , its story reverberates in your mind.I recommend  you to read this book.

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