Crossing to Safety--Wallace Stegner

I should preface the bulk of my comments by saying that I finished this book on the way home from a trip to Austin.  When I completed it my initial impulse was to hurl it across the room.  My secondary impulse was to want to shred--eviscerating it, destroying it page by painful page--to inflict upon it some of the relentless damage it inflicted upon my psyche in the reading of it.  All of which is to say I had a very personal and substantial reaction to it.  If one follows Harold Bloom's notion that great literature "reads the reader" then I am left with the interesting quandary of wondering whether I want to know what it found out in the reading.

Crossing to Safety is the chronicle of two couples.  They meet in depression era America in a university setting and the story follows them as one couple, affluent and gracious, welcomes the other couple into their family circle. We see the couples in good times and in bad for each of them--through loss of job and success as a writer.

The book is at times over-written, as though the author is striving much too hard to pull from the reader some emotion.  But for the vast majority of the book, it is extremely well-done and hits the notes just perfectly.  They recall the time in the lives of each one of us when we've shared a closeness with our friends that can only be state simply--for to do more is to overstate.

So--why my reaction to the book?  Well, to say the full extent of it would be to tell too much of the story--but let it stay at the fact that one of the characters isn't merely a control freak--she is the template of all such.  There is much good about her--but this one flaw is so vast and so all-encompassing that the entire story was darkened for me.

On the basis of reading this work, I am convinced that it will take an army to make me pick up another work by the same author.  Nevertheless, I recognize this as a personal reaction and can nevertheless highly recommend the book to people with broader tolerances than my own.



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