~post by Marie
The first time I read A Wrinkle in Time, I gained a new appreciation for how powerful the imagination can really be.
I also realized what an amazing thing it could be to be a writer. A good writer has the amazing ability to create something that actually impacts us as readers in our real lives. A good writer can craft a world so convincing and characters so complete that they carry off of the pages and stick with you long after you have turned the last page. So it was for me with my first encounter with Madeleine L’Engle, as a young nine year old who liked anything remotely equine, and was so drawn to the cover of A Wrinkle in Time.
On this version of the cover is a centaur creature with wings for arms, flying over a menacing, green face with red eyes, floating in a blue bubble in a harsh mountain scape. Whatever that flying horse thing was, I had to find out, and I was so sure it was going to be good. I unabashedly judged that book by its cover and I’m glad I did. What unfolds is a story about an adventure, an incredible form of space travel, the epic struggle between Good and Evil, and the power of Love to conquer all.
“It was a dark and stormy night,” begins our story. Really, those are the first words of this story. It centers around the Murray children and the remarkable journeys they undertake. In L’Engle’s first of several books about the Murray children, Mr. Murray, a physicist, has been missing for a while, disappeared while working on a top secret job for the government. The beautiful, brilliant Mrs. Murray, also a physicist, is trying to raise four children on her own, under the judgmental eyes of her community, while her oldest daughter Meg, fourteen, and youngest son Charles Wallace, six, each struggle with their own issues. One day a strange and unexpected visitor shows up calling herself Mrs. Whatsit and casually asks, “Have you ever heard of a tesseract?” Meg and Charles Wallace, along with the unassuming Calvin, join up with Mrs. Whatsit and her friends, the equally strange Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, who explain what a tesseract is, and set off a whirling string of impossible events.
I was enraptured. I found it amazing that someone was able to think up all those different, unique ideas and string them together such that deep and difficult concepts like Death, Love, The Meaning of Life, Good, and Evil are approachable to a nine year old. A book that can bring up big questions like this, and explore them in such a lucid, rational, and lyrical way, is a treasure, and one of L’Engle’s true strengths. Because much of what she wants to discuss is difficult to talk about in our world now, she creates a world in which to explore these themes. In order to see how grand the scale is on which Good and Evil continue to battle, L’Engle creates a magical planet for the children to visit, populated with those beautiful winged creatures that carry the children high into the atmosphere to see this ancient war rage across the stars. They are able to breath at such an altitude by holding special oxygen flowers up to their faces that they picked from the alien terrain below. They arrive on this planet under the guidance of martyred stars disguised as eccentric old women who transport from planet to planet by wrinkling the fabric of time, this same technique called “tessering” being the project Mr. Murray was working on for the government. It is a beautiful blend of science fiction and fantasy.
Don’t let the assigned category of “children’s” book fool you; this book holds up well, even for adults. I have read this book many times over the years, and read it most recently to my husband during a long road trip. Those heavy themes L’Engle explores in her books stand strong and will always remain relevant, as long as we continue to live and die, hate and love.
When I finished reading A Wrinkle in Time that first time, I couldn’t get the story out of my head. I thought about these characters with whom I had just defeated a great Evil, and wondered what they would do, how would they continue on in their lives after such an incredible experience? Fortunately, I discovered that there were plenty more books by Madeleine L’Engle about the Murray family, and many others, all with a flair of fantasy or suggestion of sci fi. And even a few more with horse-like creatures!
The rest of the books about the Murray children are sometimes called the Time Quartet. In chronological order, they are:
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