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.