Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle

"To put it into Euclid or old fashioned plane geometry, a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points."

On a dark and stormy night, Meg Murry flees her attic bedroom to take refuge in her family’s kitchen. Her genius baby brother, Charles Wallace, sits there waiting for her. Soon joined by their scientist mother, the three are cozily sipping cocoa and eating liverwurst when an unexpected knock comes at the door. Enter Mrs Whatsit, a wild old lady wrapped in layers of clothes. The storm has blown her off-course, she explains cheerfully, before turning to Mrs. Murry and calmly saying, “By the way, my dear, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract, as one character later explains, is a way of “wrinkling” time and space so that one can travel faster than the speed of light. Before long, Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe are whisked away by Mrs Whatsit and her two equally mysterious companions – Mrs Who and Mrs Which – on a quest to find the Murry’s physicist father, who disappeared a year ago while performing classified research for the government. The quest takes the children on a wild journey throughout the stars, and they learn that there is much more at stake than they initially suspected. An ancient evil is at work throughout Creation, an evil that – if not resisted – threatens to destroy all existence.

A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite childhood book of mine. I’ve always liked the prickly Meg, as she struggles to deal with both adolescence and the gossip about her family. And the lanky, red-haired Calvin was one of my many literary crushes. Charles Wallace is mysterious as a preternatural child genius, and Mrs Whatsit and her friends are lovable as only supernatural beings playing at being batty old ladies can be.

I revisited A Wrinkle in Time over Christmas in an effort to capture the old holiday spirit. My mom always gave me classic fantasies as a girl, so for me Christmas always means shining new books, adventures in unexplored worlds, and staying up late so that I could breathlessly finish those last amazing pages. And as always, A Wrinkle in Time worked its magic, as I read it curled up on my parents' couch Christmas day, sipping hot chocolate. I find the book as wonderful now as I did when a girl. Not even the pervasive Christian content troubles me, probably because L’Engle’s particular brand of Christianity is a liberal one that embraces joy – and not damnation.

In fact, it is L’Engle’s emphasis on the importance of joy that I find most enchanting. Even when circumstances are their most dire in A Wrinkle of Time, hope remains. Despair is the true enemy that the children and the three Mrs Ws are fighting, and as long as there is laughter somewhere in the universe, darkness will never triumph.

Read it (again).

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posted by Elizabeth at 10:10 PM


Blogger reyn said...

Damn, but i loves me some L'Engle. This was one of my favorites as a whippersnapper, too. I may need to revisit the Murrys... Murries?... I may need to revisit them soon.

1/08/2007 2:27 PM  

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