Thursday, March 22, 2018

Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stenger is a favorite book of mine.  I hadn't read it for a number of years, so I presented it to one of my book groups to read and it was chosen.  It was written in 1987 and was the last novel that Stenger wrote.

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety is a slow moving book, with no real plot as we know plots.  It is the story of two couples who met at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the 1930's.  At the time, both of the men were young professors and both wives were pregnant.  Sid and Charity were already the parents of two young children, and Larry and Sally were having their first child.  During the first year at Madison the couples became close friends, despite the differences in their circumstances.  Sid was quite wealthy, Larry had nothing.  However, Sid and Charity were generous with everything and their wealth didn't seem to interfere with the relationships.

This book tells the story of over thirty years of friendship between the couples.   The families go through many turmoils and different situations but were always there for each other.

The real beauty of the book is the four characters and their personalities.  Stenger does an outstanding job in developing these characters. Charity was the to be undenied leader of the pack and was not to be crossed or confronted.  Sid acquiesces to her in all.  Larry and Sally were seemingly ordinary as they watched the dynamics of the other couple, and dealt with what challenges life gave them.

The book offers much to think about and allows for great discussion!

More beach reading-The Great Alone and We Were the Lucky Ones

I continue to work on weeding out my rather large collection of books.  We bought a condo in Alabama a year ago, and, while the condo is the same size as the main floor of our home, there are no bookshelves (yet). We plan to move down there sometime in the next 18 months, so the clearing out of books has begun in earnest.  As have the discussions on the need for bookshelves in the condo!

Anyway, we went back to the beach for three weeks in February/March and I read two books while I was there.  Unfortunately or fortunately (depends on who you ask), neither book is a "keeper".

I was so greatly anticipating reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah as soon as it came out.  I had loved her last book (The Nightingale), so I bought The Great Alone to take with me , imagining it to be a wonderful beach read.  I was disappointed.  However, having said that, the book has received good reviews.

The Great AloneIt is a big novel about living in Alaska in 1974.  The Allbright family, consisting of Ernt,his wife Cora, and their daughter Leni moved up to Alaska after Ernt inherited a broken-down old house from a Vietnam buddy.  Ernt suffered from PTSD as a result of his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and the family felt like maybe moving would help him with his anger and restlessness issues. Of course, a geographical move wasn't the answer, but the family remained in Alaska, trying to survive the best they could. Leni fell in love with a high school friend who had his own issues to deal with.  Cora spent her time trying to keep Ernt from getting upset over anything.  Ernt became more and more paranoid and violent.

There were, of course, more characters in the book and some were quite interesting, but I never felt very involved in the story. Disappointing.

The second book that I read was for one of my book groups and was We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter.  I found this book quite interesting.  It is a novel, but is based on the author's family.  It is her first novel.

We Were the Lucky OnesThis book was about the Kurc family from Radom, Poland.  It began right before World War II and told the story of Sol and Nechuma Kurc and their family, consisting of sons Genek, Addy and Jakob and daughters Mila and Halina, along with the spouses of the Kurc children. Each member of the family made decisions about where they planned to go during the war and what they planned to do.  It was an amazing story and not the usual holocaust book.

The book is based on the author's grandfather's history.  As a child, the author had no idea of what her grandfather had been through. A year after he died, she had a high school assignment and sat down with her grandmother to interview her about her grandfather.  And that was when she learned pieces of his story.  Her grandfather was the Addy in the book. After the author completed college, her mother had a Kurc reunion and the author then began to learn more of the family's story.  Ten years later, she began researching and writing this book.