Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) is one of our great 20th Century American writers. His books are character-centered, often depicting the complex relationships between married couples. They are realistic love stories about lives weathered by time, familiarity, and mistakes. As Terry Tempest Williams writes in his fine introduction to Crossing to Safety (2002 Modern Library Paperback Edition), “No outsider ever knows the interior landscape of a marriage. It is one of the great secrets kept between couples. The hunt for love is always on, and in some tragic, truthful, stunning way it forever eludes us.”

It is Stegner’s great gift that he explores the meaning of love against a historical backdrop. Be it the 50s, 60s, or late 1800s, he is a master at giving the reader insights into the times and the people who inhabit them.

Crossing to Safety
Set against the backdrop of the Depression and academic life in Madison, Wisconsin, circa 1937, this book poignantly follows the lives of two couples from the aspirations of their youth though the challenges of their latter years. It is a unique and insightful look into two vastly different marriages. Beautifully written, it resonates with the humanity in all of us.

Angle of Repose
Winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize, this critically acclaimed book is about a historian, Lyman Ward, now wheelchair bound and estranged from his son and wife. His study of his grandmother’s letters, as he writes a biography of her and her adaptation to life on the Western Frontier, contrasts with the life of the 1960’s he finds so distasteful. The manuscripts are based on the real-life author and illustrator, Mary Hollock Foote, 1847-1938. The West is beautifully described, as are the insights into the relationships of the characters. This book is most deserving of the honors bestowed upon it.

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