Category Archives: Book Reviews

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 88: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

“And so, by circuitous and unpredictable routes, we converge toward midcontinent and meet in Madison, and are at once drawn together, braided and plaited into a friendship. It is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking.  It is therefore rare.”

Wallace Stegner gives the clearest definition of friendship I have ever seen written.  This definition comes from Larry Morgan, protagonist of Crossing to Safety, the author’s last published novel.  I read Stegner’s excellent The Spectator Bird last year and knew Crossing to Safety would be the next one in his oeuvre to read.

Crossing to Safety tells the story of two couples, the Morgans (Larry & Sally) and the Langs (Sid & Charity) who meet in Madison, Wisconsin, at the beginning of their academic careers during the Great Depression.  The novel chronicles their lifelong friendships and marriages. Stegner does a wonderful job of creating four fully fleshed out characters and how the dynamic amongst each other changes over the years.

Larry is the writer of the group and has a sense of independence that I could relate to.  Also, he is a devoted husband to Sally, as she suffers a disease that will alter the course of her life.  Sid is the professor that comes from family wealth and feels he has not had a fulfilling life and his wife, Charity, is a determined, strong-willed woman that bends life to her wishes. Stegner provides an excellent landscape to make this reader ponder about friendship and marriage.

Crossing to Safety is a quiet novel.  There are no affairs or betrayals of friendships to create the story’s conflict.  Stegner shows how stable friendships and marriages can actually make interesting fiction.  I could imagine if John Updike or John Irving had attempted to write this novel, it would have affairs between the couples and scandalous behavior that could have destroyed a career, marriage, or friendship.  Stegner chooses a different route, and this reader is delighted with that choice.

It is refreshing to read a novel about the interworkings of human behavior in a genteel fashion. You don’t always need to go over-the-top to make a point about life.  A stable and consistent approach can provide enough drama without having to become melodramatic.

Crossing to Safety will be one of my favorite reads of 2021 and I’m looking forward to reading more Wallace Stegner’s work.  After reading The Spectator Bird and now this one, he is an astute observer of human nature and excellent writer of characters.

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 84: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

“Grace meets you exactly where you are and it doesn’t leave you.” I heard the author Anne Lamott say this quote on the Tim Ferriss podcast a couple of days ago and knew this would be the opening sentence to my latest book review.  Grace would be the proper view about Malcolm X’s life after… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 79: Respect-The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz

Sometimes after reading one book will make you want another book with a similar topic. My previous review was a fictional music documentary in a novel titled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton. Opal Jewel was one half of a groundbreaking punk rock duo from the early 1970s that nearly made… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 78: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

“The easiest thing in the world is to be yourself. The hardest thing in the world is to be yourself.” Those two sentences were appropriate for one of the two major characters, Opal Jewel, in Dawnie Walton’s excellent debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. Walton told the story of the early 1970s… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 76: Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

I have always been more of a backlist reader than a new release reader.  There are so many books published, and it is impossible to keep up as a reader.  However, on social media and throughout the publishing world, the new release books especially in fiction are celebrated and promoted.  I totally get it.  There… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 72: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  If your spouse was wrongly accused of rape and went to prison for five years but gets released, would you remain married? That was the question An American Marriage by Tayari Jones attempted to answer in her popular novel.  An American Marriage was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2018 and has been a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 57: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding The End of The World by Yuri Herrera is the first novel about the US-Mexico Border I can remember reading.  I read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy years ago but it did not deal directly with the current issues about the border. This book came to my attention during the controversy surrounding the novel… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 36: Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Can you ever go home again? Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor attempts to answer that question. Binti returns home after a year away on a spaceship at Oozma University. She brings her friend, Okwu, for support. However, the homecoming does not go as expected and the family treats Binti like a pariah. She discovers a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 23: Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

                “Sometimes a journey can take you far away from home. It can take you far away from what you believe. From the only world you have ever known. And make you realize how much we are connected to each other. Also, how divided we can be.” This… Continue Reading

Book Review 58: Discoverability by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Indie Publishing movement of the past half-dozen years has changed the course of the publishing industry. Publishing books have become a lot easier thanks to eBooks, Amazon, and other Print-on-Demand (POD) publishers.  Would-be-novelists (like myself) that have tried to break into Traditional publishing have finally found an avenue to get their works out to… Continue Reading