A Wrinkle in Time – by Madeleine L’Engle
“It was a dark and stormy night”.
Stick with me now, friends. It may be a cliché, but it’s the start of one of the books that have lingered in my soul since elementary school. Judging by the posts that I have read here on Nerdy Book Club, and by the many references to L’Engle’s tale in recent novels, I’m not the only one. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Newbery winner, I’d like to take a moment to encourage you to join Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin on their first adventure.
Meg is a typical teenager who is struggling to learn how to live in her own skin. Her life is made more difficult, however, by all the ways in which she’s considerably less than typical. Her father, a world renowned scientist, has disappeared. Her beloved little brother, Charles Wallace, is five and won’t even speak in public, which makes everyone think he’s mentally deficient. Yet his advanced vocabulary and ability to read the thoughts and emotions of his mother and sister show that he’s anything but slow witted.
It could be the start of just another ordinary tale, but that stormy night is the beginning of an amazing adventure. The storm blows the first of three bizarre women into Meg’s life; women who reveal that her father needs their help. In his zeal to experiment with something called a “tesseract” – a method for traveling instantaneously across any distance – Mr. Murry has been captured in a world devoured by the dark power of the Black Thing. Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new friend Calvin must journey across time and space to save him. Along the way they experience many worlds. Some are filled with beauty and some with conformity and despair.
Madeleine L’Engle crafted a book that yields up new treasures every time I read it. As a preteen, Meg’s struggles to accept herself helped me face the same challenges. As a young adult, I gloried in the lessons about individuality and nonconformity. As a teacher and a mother, I identify more strongly with Mrs. Murry now. I just completed my most recent re-read, and what jumped out at me this time was the way Meg is desperately trying to grow up and move beyond her need to rely on her parents to solve all of her problems. Is it any surprise that I’m currently the parent of a child who is about to begin his own journey toward independence?
A Wrinkle in Time is a story where women can be scientists and mothers, teenage boys can be empathic communicators, and girls can be gifted mathematicians yet still struggle in school. It’s a book about young people growing up and learning to accept the way they are – strengths and flaws alike. It’s a glorious tale of the battle of good versus evil. It’s an anthem to love, to family, to friendship, and to hope. Wherever you are right now in your life - child or adult, teacher or student, male or female – you can find something in this tale that speaks to you. I know I do, every time.