Friendship is one of my favorite themes in literature, and Wallace Stegner adds levels of complexity by examining the decades-long friendships and relationships of two couples. First meeting at the start of the men's academic careers in Wisconsin, Larry and Sally and Sid and Charity instantly fall into a foursome that lasts through decades of work, play, children, sickness, travel, conflict, and heartache. These are quiet lives, punctuated with successes and disappointments, driven by ambition, intellectual pursuits, and their closeness with one another.
They are a privileged circle, moving through times of war and Depression but largely untouched (and cushioned by the riches of one of the couples). And while these events do provide a backdrop for the times, as with most people it's the small moments and personal memories that loom large, especially as they reflect on them late in life.
Stegner's writing is impeccable, if a bit of a slow read--mostly because there were lines so poignant I backtracked to read them again. He is an author I plan to read more of, and this book is one I will likely read several times in years to come.
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Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.