Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

31 December 2012

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner


When I read the last words of Crossing to Safety my second reaction was to think, "Thank goodness that's over!"  That came after my first response which was to allow a few little tears to trickle down my cheek.  (That moment was interrupted by finding a seven year old's face about 10 centimetres from my face requesting crackers for afternoon tea.)  Why the second response, when I was moved to tears in the first instance?  Relief that after four (albeit glorious) days I could get myself to bed before midnight and the family stood a chance of a) getting some eye contact from me after four fairly remote days and b) something better than crackers for afternoon tea.

Crossing to Safety was written in 1987 by American author Wallace Stegner.  It is the story of the lives of two couples - Sid and Charity Lang and Larry and Sally Morgan - who met for the first time during the Depression.  Sid and Larry both have their first jobs in the English Department of the University of Wisconsin.  Their wives are both pregnant.  A lifelong friendship is born.  The book, told from the point of view of an aging Larry Morgan, charts the progress of friendship, life, love and loyalty. 

Written about a different era, and yet it was very evocative of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  Of Gilead I said,

"And it is a wonderfully written novel. It moved along so slowly, and yet it was a page turner. It was oh so gentle, but not light weight by any stretch of the imagination. Full of peace, compassion, deep love, honour, loyalty and lived out, deeply understood theology.  Beautiful holiday reading!"

Apart from the "lived out, deeply understood theology" bit, that description fits this book perfectly.  Crossing to Safety is not written from a Christian world view so when it takes in the subject of dying I found it achingly sad to read very good writing about dying and death, but death without hope.  So there is that to it.  But as far as great reads go, this is a wonderful, wonderful book and if you are a Gilead fan, then I feel fairly sure you will love this too for its pace, poise and richness.

Thank you so very much to Karen whose review first introduced me to this book.  Unlike Karen, who seems to have excellent self-control and makes very good use of her local library, I actually bought this one and put it away for Boxing Day.  It was all I could do to not take a sneak peak during December.  (I did end up reading the introduction and the first chapter before Christmas...)  And in the spirit of lack of self-control, I was going to a summer reading round up at the end of the holidays, but I couldn't wait until then with this book.  If you are in need of a good summer read (or a good winter read for that matter) then this might be one for you.  As for me, my summer reading plan has just changed directions.  I am off to find Gilead for a re-read now.  (I bought that one too!)  But I might fix afternoon tea first.

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