The last time I read A Wrinkle in Time was ten years ago. I hadn’t read the book in years before that, and barely remembered it, except for a few images that had burned into my subconscious (the man with the red eyes, for example; the Murry’s vegetable garden and their laboratory; Charles Wallace; and I remembered that I thought it was terrifying).
It’s basically impossible for me to read or review it now without my childhood impressions coloring it. Because I think this may be one of those cases where a book is best first read in childhood. There’s this ineffable quality to it, a certain authority that I really responded to as a kid, and that I felt calling to me this time as well. Kids respond so much more viscerally to reading than adults do, and they don’t need things spelled out or filled in the way I find myself craving from adult literature. You filled in the holes with your imagination, and books like this one felt like mythic discoveries rather than the creations of a human person however many years before.
That said, I feel like so many things in this book I can appreciate more now as an adult. I’ve seen soooo many people complaining about Meg and Charles Wallace as characters, and I just don’t see it. I like that Meg is so very flawed. She’s belligerent and angry and afraid, and she takes it out on the people who love her. She’s also not afraid to apologize and learn from her mistakes. I’m not sure now what exactly is going on with Charles Wallace, but I know as a kid I totally bought that he was something “new”, and really liked how smart and on top of things he was (which is at the same time undercut by his arrogance being the thing that ends up trapping him in the mind of IT). And I love that the entire underlying message of this book is being yourself, even if that means you don’t fit in precisely everywhere. There’s a suggestion in the character of Calvin that L’Engle was saying most people feel this way, that they don’t fit in, and are just pretending. It was such a lovely moment to read about Calvin finally finding a place where he felt like he didn’t have to pretend anymore to be something he wasn’t.
I find myself also being really tickled by the seemingly contradictory notions that the book is so pro-science, but also very spiritual (I don’t know that I would call it Christian, necessarily). I like that L’Engle doesn’t make you choose one or the other, but presents a fictional world where you can have both.
And the central struggle for Meg here, which I know 100% I did not pick up on as a child, is Meg growing up and realizing that she can’t wait for other people to save her. Her anger at her father when she realizes he isn’t her savior, but just a man with no easy answers, was such a touching moment. And when she crosses over from being angry about being forced to take responsibility to embracing it, I think is the real climax of the book (though most people point to the moment when she saves Charles Wallace with love).
It’s interesting to think about this book in terms of the time it was written, when so many people were fearful about the dangers of communism and the homogenization of culture, but I think divorced from that context, this is still a powerful book that still feels relevant today.
Read Harder Challenge 2018: A children’s classic published before 1980.