Last week, as I packed to leave for the week-end, I tucked Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time into my backpack. I debated, because my book club might choose it for our next book. But it's a slim book, and I've really been feeling pulled to it. So, it travelled with us.
As with every time I've read the book, it pulled me right in, and never disappointed me.
How do I love this book? Let me count the ways:
--There's the protagonist, Meg Murry. What a spunky, feisty young woman. Her behavior is far from perfect, but she remains sympathetic. She's brave, even when she's afraid. She makes me believe that I, too, can be brave. She's not good looking in traditional ways, but she gets the guy anyway.
--But the romantic love theme is definitely a small part of the book. That was a plus for me when I read it as a kid. As an adult, I wanted more. But of course, there are the sequels, where Meg and Calvin get married and have children. As an adult reader, I noticed the love between the parents more than I did when I first read the book. I loved the message that you can have an unruly family and still be madly in love with each other. Your spouse can be held captived on a hostile planet, but love can conquer all.
--That theme of love conquering all--what a great theme. I love that the odds are long, and seemingly impossible. It's not an easy battle they must fight.
--The book is not afraid to talk about good and evil and the struggle for control. It's a great theme, a theological theme, and there are so many ways it could go terribly wrong. But L'Engle crafts her book with care and avoids the pitfalls. As a result, we get an amazing book.
--I love that each parent is shown as not knowing exactly what to do. In fact, you could argue that the parents are colossal failures in significant ways. And we get to see Meg struggle with that fact. And the family survives the disappointment of not knowing what to do.
--What a great family of outsiders. I love that some of the family fits in, but most are odd in significant ways. That detail seems right to me. I love that they love each other anyway.
--It's a great touch that the mom understands how hard it is to be an outsider as a girl. Her advice to her daughter Meg particularly touched me with this reading. I loved the idea that sometimes you have to wait as you grow into the person you need to be. That message resonated with me, and seems pertinent to us all, not just adolescents.
--My love of science may have started with this book. How cool to have a lab off of your kitchen. How wonderful that L'Engle was not afraid to have readers wrestle with essential Physics questions.
--This book was one of the first to teach me to love science fiction. Interplanetary travel! Tessering! How I yearned to have these kind of adventures. Books gave me these adventures, even when I couldn't pull off tessering on my own.
--Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which: who are those three strange woman? Are they really expired stars? Conquered planets? Guardian angels? God in 3 incarnations? I love that the book doesn't give a definitive answer.
--I love, love, love that Meg's flaws turn out to be her strengths.
--Meg is perfect, just the way she is. In fact, all of these characters turn out to be perfect, despite their imperfections. It's such a great message for a world that tries to get us to conform, to change, to squeeze ourselves into costumes that do not fit. Meg doesn't have to slim down, to use the right make-up, to get a better hairstyle, to get the guy. Meg doesn't have to settle down so that she can do well in school and get into a good college. Her parents continue in their scientific pursuits, even though they aren't successful in traditional ways. Charles Wallace is allowed to grow up at his own pace. Calvin finds a family that fits him better, but he doesn't have to reject his birth family.
--But it's Meg I come back to again and again. I just love that character. I love all the characters, but Meg is one of my all-time favorites.
--What would Meg Murry do? Maybe that will be my new motto.
--And the ending of the book shows us what to do, how to redeem any situation. It's simple, really, but so hard to break us out of our prisons.