Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Crossing to Safety” as Want to Read:
Crossing to Safety
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Crossing to Safety

by
4.16  ·  Rating details ·  34,877 ratings  ·  4,703 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 9th 2002 by Modern Library (first published 1987)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Crossing to Safety, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Termarimah I think the book was about each character's internal conflict between security and risk. The novel's many scenarios demonstrated how all four of the…moreI think the book was about each character's internal conflict between security and risk. The novel's many scenarios demonstrated how all four of the characters took upon themselves some degree of risk throughout their careers and marriages—because, as Stegner showed us, life gives us little to no choice about these things. Importantly however he also showed us that what can be controlled is what one does with such events, particularly when risk-taking fails (or when things didn't turn out like one expected or hoped or planned!). One has a choice. One can devolve into darkness or despair, or choose to stay within the safety (or security) of what is known and appreciated.

I know that Stegner was very concerned with place in his writing (he was transient as a child), so I felt that his definition of security always involved some aspect of physical/spiritual location in the novel. When risks were taken and the characters were temporarily suspended in uncertainty, where did they turn to find their place? Inside the security of their marriages? Inside the security of academia? Inside their professed vocations? Inside their own internal certainties? Inside friendship? Yes, to all of the above. Even more importantly, I thought the novel was about a mutual, collective choice to embody Paradise Regained (and not Paradise Lost) at all costs, even if that meant repressing one's deepest desires, dreams and capabilities. I noted that it was only Sid who expressed any type of loss throughout their long friendship, even though there were hints of loss for everyone throughout the novel. It was simply a taboo topic. Everyone played it SAFE. Larry, who may have been the most in denial about his aspirations towards security and upward mobility said, “We were no lost generation, despite our losses. It was no Dada Nada that we hunted up and down the streets of Florence and through its museums and churches and out into dozens of hill towns and villages, but something humanized, something related to mind and order, and hence to hope; something that, as we kept reminding ourselves, was the dream of man.”

I asked myself however if these choices, despite all the characters' efforts, in fact mitigated risk in the end. I thought they did not. Ultimately Larry acknowledged, “You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him.” Death still arrives for you, despite your efforts to keep it at bay.

What was interesting about this novel for me is that the two most controlling, safety-seeking characters, Larry and Charity—who were coincidentally the most afraid of risk—were in the end outdone by the two most accommodating characters, Sid and Sally. The ending was hopeful because of these two characters' willingness to embrace ambiguity and change. They were the ones who ultimately crossed over to safety, and I thought Stegner's vision in this regard was quite powerful.(less)
Jenny I am not sure what triggers you are wondering about, but, yes, the book is basically clean.
The Help by Kathryn StockettThe Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniWater for Elephants by Sara GruenThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Best for Book Clubs
5,985 books — 11,436 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë1984 by George OrwellThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Must Read Classics
1,715 books — 4,081 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,877 ratings  ·  4,703 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Crossing to Safety
Jim Fonseca
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Books like this are why I read. Despite some dark passages, it’s a delight to read and I’m adding it as one of my all-time favorites.

The story follows two couples through life. It’s an academic novel in a sense – both men start out as English professors at the University of Wisconsin in the difficult years of the late 1930’s – the end of the Depression, heading into WW II. The hunt for the Holy Grail of tenure and discussions of suitable academic work that will get tenure is one theme - poetry? novels? liter
...more
Steve
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Does it seem ironic that a book I’ve awarded a full pentad of stars is also the cause of great frustration? Not when I tell you that my problem has nothing to do with the novel itself, but rather in conjuring the right words to do it justice. You see every account I run through my head makes it sound more boring than it is. I guess I should just start by telling you it’s about two couples who met during the Great Depression. Sid and Charity Lang live well on inherited wealth. Larry and Sally Mor ...more
Melody
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some books that seem to have tiny leaks in their spines and covers and pages and release almost unnoticeable misty, smoky particles of their story – well not so much their story but the mood that is created by the story – out into the “real” world. And when reading these books you find – or at least I find (I should shift my point of reference to me not you) that I am seeing things in my daily routine through a sort of cloud that at first I don’t recognize but then suddenly it dawns on ...more
Will Byrnes
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jaline
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The narrator of this novel, Larry Morgan, at one point says to his wife, “But if I’m going to set the literary world on fire, the only way to do it is to rub one word against the other.”

Not only did Wallace Stegner likely set the literary world on fire with this book, he set me on fire! Can you imagine reading an entire book about the long friendship between two couples and being left gasping at the end, longing for more?

The characters in this book (primarily Larry and his wife Sally, and
...more
BlackOxford
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, favourites
A Lost World

Once upon a time there was an American Republican President named Eisenhower. Ike wasn’t a very smart man but he was not an evil man. He didn’t like the way the world was run, not even in his own country. But he remained calm in his politics and civil to his political opponents. He set an example. People felt safe around other people.

At that time there was a place called Vermont. It contained a smaller place called the Northeast Kingdom. There were no motorways then a
...more
Mary
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2013
How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?

Stegner did it.

We follow two married couples from their bright eyed 1930s youth to their retirement years. There's no razzle dazzle, no shocks or mysteries, no scandals or horrors . Their hurts are subtle and familiar.

The writing is solid and reflective and downright beautiful.

I found the story to be mostly about acceptance. Loving people even when you don't like them. Finding satisfaction in
...more
Kevin Ansbro
"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases…"
—Wallace Stegner

As with A Gentleman in Moscow and The Heart's Invisible Furies, the inescapable popularity of this book on Goodreads was the white flash of a rabbit's tail that first caught my eye. Then as I dipped into the lavish reviews, it became the godlike voice that boomed at me through thunder clouds
...more
Cheryl
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The warm shudders I experienced as I sank into each night with this book on my lap, the stunning imagery of diminished time against an unchanging landscape, and the quiet story of academic couples faced with tragedy, makes me certain that Stegner will be an author I grow with this year. This year I made a pact with myself to become more familiar with the works of authors I love. Now here I am, back to visit Stegner, "The Dean of Western Writers," after having admired the program he started at St ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Mar 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sorry, great writing but not for me.
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Kelly
This defines the term character-driven novel, multi-faceted and deeply defined Steigner hones each with a surgeon’s precision. A story of two couples, the joys and challenges of their marriages and enduring friendship and a life cocooned within Ivy League’s walls.
• Larry Morgan (narrator): workaholic, driven, rags-to-riches college professor & author extraordinaire “I was a cork held under, my impulse was always up”
• Sally Morgan: ah Saint Sally…“I had to live, out of pure gratitude”
• Sid Lang: repressed poet; hSally…“I
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
My review of Stegner's Angle of Repose in which I was fairly critical of the book, several readers objected and insisted I read Crossing to Safety. Well, I listened to the audiobook during a long 7h drive today and found it more interesting than Angle and yet not in my upper echelon of American 20th C novels. Crossing reminded me more of Richard Russo's style that it did of Updike (both of whose writing I prefer). I liked the descriptions very much (as I did in Angle), but had a hard time really ...more
Bianca
Oh, my heart, what a novel.

I'm incredulous that this novel is not up there among the best novels of the 20th century .
I only heard of Stegner last year.

I can't remember ever reading a novel about a friendship between two grown-up couples. Such friendships are rare. Lots of things have to align for that to happen, besides proximity, compatibility between four people, and the kids, a similar socio-economic standing, political and intellectual similarities.

Writt
...more
Georg
Jan 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: english
For me this book is difficult to review. On the one hand I needed two weeks for 280 pages which is not a good sign, on the other hand I enjoyed reading it a lot. In the end I did not know how to rate it. Instead of deciding spontaneously I listened two the both voices in my head (yes, I hear voices), the Good Guy and the Bad Guy. I will give you just a short summary of their dialogue.
GG: "You must be kidding. Three stars for this excellently written masterpiece?"
BG: "I don't object t
...more
Matt
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-novels
Life is a process of gradually narrowing choices. You learn this early in life, often when playing sports. You know you’re not going to be a Major League Baseball player because you can’t hit a curveball, or a fast fastball, or, in fact, the ball off a tee. Later, in school, you discover that your eyesight – and fear of heights – is going to keep you from being a jet pilot; and that your biology score is going to keep you from being a doctor, or passing biology; and that you aren’t ever going to ...more
Phrynne
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
This is my first book by this author and I was driven to read it by its wonderful title (my next book of his will be Angle of Repose for the same reason) and its enormous popularity. Not necessarily the best of reasons but I was happy with the result.

I doubt if anyone would argue that Stegner writes beautifully. This is the kind of prose you have to read slowly and carefully in order not to miss a thing. The story tells of several decades of friendship between two married couples describin
...more
Amy
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As I am waiting for Angle of Repose to arrive for me to read, I started going back through CTS and skimming through it. These years later the passage that has remained closest to me is this:
You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is pured on him. And
...more
Sara
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Sara by: Elyse
When I closed this book and laid it aside, my hand was shaking. The shaking was coming from deep inside my body and soul, where Wallace Stegner had infused me with words and images that caused me to tremble with recognition.

Stegner understands relationships and he also understands the part of the individual that is never given away to anyone else. He paints that so clearly that you see yourself in it as if it were a mirror. If you cannot see elements of your own marriage in this portrait, you c
...more
Steven Godin
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, america
Achingly beautiful and deeply moving this is the closest any book has come to bring a tear to my eye, the friendship between the Langs and the Morgans was so strong and heart warming it has profoundly affected the way I look at life and that of my loved ones. Impeccably written by Stegner who I believe was in his late seventies at the time, this really is a timeless novel that would break even those who carry a heart of stone.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I bought this back when I saw it was included in the book club for Modern Mrs. Darcy, a book club I am not a part of because I don't think you should pay money to belong to a book club, but I do pay attention to what they read.

This is another "classic" novel of 20th century literature where I had neither read the book itself nor the author. It focuses on the friendship between two couples, where both men are professors and writers and the women have other stuff going on. How hard is
...more
Perry
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Tuning Fork for Epiphanies in the Ordinary

I did not expect too much from this novel, being no big fan of Stegner's most-recognized novels, Angle of Repose (thee and thou and thy and thine began to crawl my spine) and the uninspiring The Spectator Bird. I was caught off guard then, by how deeply I was stirred by Stegner's semi-autobiographical novel of a close, long-term friendship between two married couples, set in Wisconsin and New England.

Stegner composed a brilliant life contrast: the optimism and enthusiasm of two(
...more
Lyn Elliott
Since I finished reading this book about three weeks ago, I've thought a lot about what its central subject actually is. The friendship between two married couples, with different expectations and backgrounds, over decades is certainly there. But in a sense it feels as though that is the surface, and that there are deeper, less obviously expressed themes throughout the book.

One, it seems to me, is a slow examination of what makes up charity. The dominant female character is Charity,
...more
Michelle
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
The stars I gave this book are for the writing quality. It is very good writing. The author was very good at metaphor, and a carrying the metaphor throughout the book. I also like his blunt analogies.

The author paints a picture by jumping from present to past, to not-so-far in the past, back to the further-back past, back to the present, etc. It's kind of interesting. I'm not sure I like it, but I guess I don't hate it either.

The story itself, was kind of boring. I'm not even sure w
...more
Stephanie Nicholas
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
Crossing to safety was a beautiful book about relationships, how they wax and wane, and friendships that last for a lifetime. The setting was idyllic, I felt as if I was in the story. One of the best books I have ever read.
Chrissie
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chrissie by: Anne
I put this book off for quite some time, knowing that it was about the friendship between two couples where one woman was dying and the other was crippled by polio. I figured that it had to be just too, too, too depressing! What I didn’t realize was how well also friendship would be drawn. This counteracts the depressing elements.

Friendship, its immediacy, its intensity and how it develops over the years, are all very well drawn. We observe two married couples—we look at the relationship between t
...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
This is one of my FAVORITE BOOKS.....'ever'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Angle of Repose" (also by Wallace Stegner), is also one of my favorite top 10 books --(this is the first time I can say ---I 'really'--'really' can claim to have read TWO books by an author that will be forever LIFE-TIME-FAVORITES!!!!!

I'm only sorry I waited this long to read "Crossing to Safety". (its timeless).

Beautifully written --

Vivid-engaging-(story-telling at its best).
...more
Clif Hostetler
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This novel is a sensitive reflection on the intermingled lives of two couples. As captured by Stegner's skillful writing it becomes an emotional meditation on four lives well lived. The characters in this book are of a generation that began their married and professional lives in the late 1930s, thus they preceded my own "boomer" generation. But Stegner's reflection on their early dreams and subsequent lives emotes similar feelings within myself when I recall my early hopes and compare them with ...more
Laysee
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Update July 11, 2019

I first read Crossing To Safety, my first book by Wallace Stegner, in August 2013. It made a deep impression that has lingered over the years. Since then I've read many more books by him, and this is still my favorite Stegner.

Original review, Aug 17, 2013
Crossing To Safety is a beautiful novel. It has an unassuming, quiet appeal that resides in its verbal felicity and its thoughtful definition of the worthy life.

It celebrates the best of friendship marked by an expansive magnani/>Crossing
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
SWOON!! My first Wallace Stegner. I'm in love! Can I have a literary crush on someone who's been dead for fifteen years? Is that comme il faut?

It's hard to find anything to say about this book that wouldn't just muddy up the waters. Just giving a plot summary would make it sound like a plain old ordinary book. Stegner's writing is just......WOW!! The book is about friendship and generosity and youthful extravagant hopes and finding ways to be happy when fate betrays us and our dreams
...more
Lorna
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Crossing to Safety was the beautiful and quiet novel by Wallace Stegner, that has become an enduring classic about the evolving and lifelong friendship between two couples, the Langs and the Morgans, meeting in Wisconsin when Sid Lang and Larry Morgan were beginning their first university teaching jobs in Madison during the Great Depression. Charity Lang and Sally Morgan form an instant bond of friendship and comradery in this character-driven novel. It is within the context of this enduring friendshi ...more
Mikey B.
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a well written and very subdued story; there are no revelations or culminations.

It is about friendship and marriage over a lifetime and how it evolves, changes, and adjusts. The novel is very character based and concerns two different couples who become close friends. They are both very literary and they meet while teaching at a small college in the mid-west. Most of the settings, captured splendidly by the author, are either in the mid-west or at a lake in northern Vermont t
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Conomo Book Group: Title ? 1 4 Sep 18, 2019 04:37AM  
Around the Year i...: Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner 1 26 Feb 25, 2018 05:52PM  
One more question...the title? 9 291 May 08, 2016 02:24PM  
Christian fiction? 5 47 May 07, 2016 04:44PM  
Love - what it really means 3 63 Jun 02, 2015 07:40AM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Two young couples, one rich, one struggling. Set in 1960s? [s] 5 54 Oct 14, 2014 09:09PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Etiquette of Illness: What to Say When You Can't Find the Words
  • Man Gone Down
  • The Lizard Cage
  • Winter Wheat
  • Continental Drift
  • The Whistling Season
  • Feasting the Heart: Fifty-Two Commentaries for the Air
  • Brat Farrar
  • My Father's Tears and Other Stories
  • The Underground Railroad
  • Marjorie Morningstar
  • Daily Strength for Daily Needs
  • Jayber Crow
  • The Bite of Mango
  • Felicia's Journey
  • Anna Karenina
  • The Ladies Auxiliary
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived In
See similar books…
934 followers
Wallace Earle Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. Some call him "The Dean of Western Writers." He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and the U.S. National Book Award in 1977.
“You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have 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.” 189 likes
“He used to tell me, 'Do what you like to do. It'll probably turn out to be what you do best.” 61 likes
More quotes…