Crossing To Safety By Wallace Stegner

Crossing To Safety - A wonderfully written book about lasting friendships, kindness, dominance and much more!

This novel is a rare treat! There are no cliff hangers or huge dramatic events which alter the course of the novel as there are in most books,

YET it is one of the most beautifully written novels many people will have ever read & it will linger long after the book has been closed.

The Plot

Crossing To Safety is incredibly simple! It is about two couples who meet in the 1930's, when the men are just beginning  their academic careers & who remain friends through several decades.

Whilst they mirror each other in that the men are academics & neither of their wives pursue careers, they contrast in that the Lang's are incredibly wealthy from inherited money whilst

the Morgan's are poor & take years to make money.

But the writer doesn't pursue this aspect of their friendship as one might expect, for the differences could make for good reading, he simply concentrates on how they relate to each other throughout their lives, tracing their dynamics & in the process, Stegner  makes his readers think carefully about their own friendships which are frequently full of expectations & criticisms.


Style:  Crossing To Safety is very easy to read yet it is extremely well written. For some readers, the beautiful descriptive writing will be the highlight of the book. The exploration of friendships begins with Larry Morgan as a 64 year old telling  the story retrospectively, leaving us straight away with questions to to be answered. For

instance, why have he & his wife Sally, been summoned  from their home in New Mexico to the home of their friends, Charity & Sid, up in Vermont. He traces their developing relationship over the years before revealing the answer to that particular question.

Themes:  The main theme touches us all for it is about enduring friendship but it's also about loving & caring, being non- judgemental when they irritate us & not always making assumptions about others, best illustrated when Larry realises that Sid's deep, deep love for Charity far outweighs his frustrations at her attitude towards his desire to write poetry.
There is also the recurring theme of poor communications at times along with an inability to listen to the needs of others.


Characters: The outstanding character is Charity, Sid's wife. She is a force to be reckoned with; she dominates, commands & succeeds in making Larry lose patience with her at times. He sometimes resents her treatment of Sid & her general bossiness but through his reporting we come to see that she has a heart of gold & is such a great person.

She has enormous energy & is full of ideas, always for the benefit of others & her generosity is phenomenal. She gives money to Larry & Sally with no thought of wanting it back. Sid adores her as does Sally. She is an unforgettable character in Literature.

Although both families have children, they play only a small part in the story as the writer stays true to his aims of looking at friendships. The Hudson's even call their daughter Lang in tribute to their friendship. We know that at times, Larry is critical of her, but it is a tribute to his reporting that we can see the pure goodness in Charity & we should beware of being judgemental.

Book Club Questions

1.  What do you like about Stegner's writing? If you don't like it, why not? 

2.  Based on your reading of the hopes & dreams of the couples, would you say you are on course to realising your dreams or are you having to compromise? If so, why?

3  How do you see the friendship of the two couples? Do you like it, envy it or is it not for you?

4.  Do you know couples where one is dominated? Does it work for some but maybe not for others ? Has the novel made you take a look at your relationship?

5.  We read of Larry's feelings about the other characters but what might the Lang's have to say about both Larry & Sally? Are they developed enough in the story to answer this question?

6. Charity is dominant in the novel. What do you feel about her? Do your feelings change as the story progresses?

7. Do the same views apply to Sid? Do you change towards him?

8. Crossing To Safety - What does the title mean for you and your group?


Our book club was very split on Crossing To Safety. The majority gave it 8/10 but some found it too slow, giving it only 5/10.

Perhaps some readers might feel that they are waiting for something to happen, something dramatic, but nothing of that sort happens.

And in return we become more & more involved in the relationships which we can relate to in a variety of ways with our own friends. So, nothing seemingly profound, but there are lots of lessons to be learned from our reading of this clever rewarding story.

The writing is some of the best I've read so well worth an inclusion in your book club.

Summing Up:  This is such a good Book Club read because its messages touch us all & there is much to discuss.

Top of Crossing To Safety

Best Fiction Books

Fab Book Club Recommendations

This Month's Book - Join Us!

Book of Month Club

Love reading about outrageous injustice and unfairness. Try this one.

Empty Cradles

Learn about new countries cultures. Try

Letters From Burma

Looking for books with a bit more depth for your Book Club? Try

John Steinbeck East of Eden

Establish some fun ground rules for your Book Club:

Rules For Meetings

Make things interesting - Have an annual Award Ceremony

Best Books Awards

Visit a Prison with a difference in South America. You will be amazed what goes on behind closed doors:

Marching Powder

Read a Classic and find out what makes Flaubert's story and writing so legendary:

Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

Looking for something quirky and funny?

Try The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared