I know that the CBR book club is reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, my next book, but I didn’t really pay attention to what one does with that. So, I read it and I’m writing a review and hopefully that will help add to the discussion. I know I owned this book as a kid, as I distinctly remember the opening chapter and that someone eats a liverwurst sandwich. I was one of the only people I knew at the time (still the case actually) who actually LIKED liverwurst so seeing it in a book for kids my age was noteworthy I guess. I dunno, I have a weird palate. What’s funny is that I am pretty sure I never made it past that chapter, as I had zero recollection of the story and how it may have ended. The movie coming out this March made me want to revisit it, as my interest in the sci-fi/fantasy genre has expanded a bit since my age was a single digit. I think back then I was way more into houses on prairies or redheaded orphans than nerdy genius kids traveling through space and time.
For those of you who don’t know, A Wrinkle in Time is the story of the Murry family, specifically Meg and Charles Wallace. They’re the oldest and youngest of four children whose parents are scientists in what sounds like a New England town but I don’t know for sure. Their father has been missing for four years on what is supposedly a very secret government mission, but their townspeople obviously think he ran out on his family. Meg and her little brother are ridiculed and don’t do well in school. They’re often mistaken for dumb or moronic, but in fact they’re both quite intelligent, Charles Wallace especially. One night a mysterious old woman named Mrs. Whatsit comes into their kitchen seeking shelter from the storm and mentions a tesseract. Meg notices that the word unnerves her mother and so the following day she, Charles Wallace, and a young boy named Calvin, seek out Mrs. Whatsit and her companions, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. With little warning the three children are sped on a fantastical journey across the universe on the hunt for the missing Mr. (Dr.?) Murry.
I was on board with this book…until the end. While the book was written in the early 1960s, I only found it a little bit dated. Small towns are kind of the same everywhere and whenever you are. People will talk about the kids who don’t conform. They’ll assume the worst and enjoy gossip about their neighbors. Kids magically traveling through space and being able to read minds is fantasy, and so it’s timeless really. Sure, some of the language is a bit dated but overall, you could easily read this to children today and they’d probably enjoy it equally. I like the story overall, and while Meg herself is a bit frustrating, what 12-year-old girl isn’t a pain in the ass to her friends and family? Going through puberty and trying to figure out one’s place in the world, especially with an absent father and being smarter than everyone around you, is going to make you a drama queen. Calvin was a likeable young man and Charles Wallace is a weird four-year-old who is fairly creepy. Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, the children’s guides, are obtuse but purposefully so. The actual story itself is pretty unnerving and could definitely keep you up at night.
The book has a lot going for it. Then abruptly, it ends, in the cheesiest possible manner, and I was so disappointed. For the handful out there that have never read it I won’t spoil it specifically, but it felt like L’Engle was given a 200-page limit and realized she was almost there and slapped a few paragraphs together to wrap it up. I would guess that up to page 195 of 203, I assumed the story wasn’t going to get wrapped up in this first entry and I’d have to find the next book of the series to see what happened. It’s juvenile fiction, so I probably should give it more leeway than I am, but I remember many novels from my childhood that are not so slapped together at the end. I am curious about the next book in the series, but I am not in any rush.