Tag Archives: Book Review

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 82: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

What does it mean to being smart? It seems we have judged intelligence by IQ and rational knowledge throughout human history. However, there was a book published over twenty-five years ago that challenged the notion and looked at emotions as an important factor regarding intelligence. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman presents a claim that it… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 70: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Sometimes in reading a novel for the second time, you will not get the same feeling when you read it previously. This is the case for Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Snow Country is considered to being Kawabata’s masterpiece.  And for many reasons, I agree with that assessment. However, as I’m getting older, I realize… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Review 51: Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the science fiction writers I have read throughout my reading life.  He joins Octavia Butler, Greg Bear, and Robert Silverberg as the science fiction writers I have found interesting and thought provoking to read. Pacific Edge is the third book of The Three Californias Trilogy and a book that… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 49: Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

There are books that make you want to turn the page to find out what happens next.  However, there are a few books that turns the page for you and invites the reader into the story.  Very few novels make you feel the latter.  Little Country by Charles de Lint is one of those novels. … Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 28: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

King writes an interesting, psychological story about a nine year old girl that gets separated from her family and lost in the woods. King probes the internal psyche of a young girl in such a situation and uses the power of imagination in the form of her favorite baseball player, Tom Gordon of the Boston… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 27: Map of Shadows by J.F. Penn

J.F. Penn wrote a fast-paced, dark fantasy thriller about a young woman named Sienna that belongs to a family of mapmakers and their connection to another world called the Borderlands. Map of Shadows is the first book of the trilogy and does a solid job of setting up the conflict between the people of this… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 25: Chronicle Of A Death Foretold

For the world-renowned novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, most readers have read or attempted to read One Hundred Years of Solitude or the more accessible Love In The Time of Cholera. Some (like me) have read both novels. However, Garcia Marquez has a body of work that gets overlooked by those aforementioned books. I was in… Continue Reading