Book: A Wrinkle In Time (1962) Madeleine L’Engle

Pre-warning:  This will be a lengthy blog about the book, NOT the movie.  It will include plots, storylines, twists, character background (i.e. SPOILERS).  If  you have not read the book or seen the movie, I have prewarned you so you cannot gripe…

It was a dark and stormy night.

So many more books should start with that one line. Or end with it even.

We are introduced to the Murry family: Margaret (Meg – our protagonist), Sandy/Dennys (twins – who this book built up as protectors but did not utilize the characters fully – maybe in later books?), Ms Murry (a scientist who longingly wonders what happened to her missing husband, also a scientist) and Charles Wallace (the youngest sibling with a peculiar sense of intelligence).  They also have a dog, Fortinbras (and an unnamed kitten). I found some of their names to be quite interesting.  For one, Murry – not the most common of last names.  Why not Murray?  Why Dennys instead of Dennis?  Fortinbras though – he is a character in Hamlet who delivers the last lines that offer hope.  I like that.

Meg, a young girl with glasses, flyaway hair and braces, is rather hard on herself when it comes to her looks, how quickly she understands things, etc.  She also likes to fight and is not afraid to do so.  We quickly come to realize that she and Charles Wallace will be main subjects to this story.

When reading books, I love that phrases my family used jump out.  In this book it was: The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions. I believe that is such a true statement.

Mrs Whatsit: upon her introduction into the story I was wondering if she was a witch or just a clairvoyant.

Chapter one vocabulary words: Wraithlike, Prodigious, Frivoling, Tesseract

Over a breakfast of French Toast, we are discussing Mrs Whatsit and how strange she might be  “You don’t have to understand things for them to BE.”  Mrs Murry explains a word from the previous chapter, tesseract (it means, a concept).  Everyone in their community questions the absence of Mr Murry.  Mom never hesitates to reinforce that he will be home while the community believes he ran off.  This is driven home by an exchange with Meg’s principal who antagonizes her and called her belligerent for standing up to him during a questioning of where Mr Murry was.

At this point I wondered if there were characters with ESP or some mind-reading abilities.  They call Charles Wallace a “Sport”, a change in gene resulting in the appearance of a character which is not present in parents but can be passed to kids.

Charles Wallace, intelligent beyond his years, decides they need to visit Mrs. Whatsit and on the way we meet Calvin who felt a compulsion to be at this place at this time.  As this part of the story develops, we find that Calvin and Fortinbras have a calming affect on Meg.

We now meet Mrs Who.  She is my favorite of the three women we meet in this novel.  She translates phrases from a multitude of languages (Latin, German, French, Spanish, Persian (?), Portuguese and more).  Justitiae soror fides. From Latin meaning: Faith is the sister of justice.

Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin set out on an adventure to find Mr Murry.  Charles Wallace and Calvin can read minds and Meg/Mom are something different. And I keep coming back to: Are the ladies witches?

Chapter two vocabulary words: Antagonistic, Assimilate

Mrs Murry is cooking stew in the lab on a burner. I wonder if Fortinbras is “different” too (that never develops in this book).  The twins are building a fort (again, another protective maneuver – just like telling Meg to let THEM do the fighting, if it must be done).  The twins fit into society with greater ease than Meg and Charles Wallace.

Calvin has been invited to dinner and he says something that (IMHO) as a mind reader comes as a devastating reality: I love them all but they don’t give a hoot about me.  This is horribly sad and is a lesson in appreciation for her family for Meg.  Meg offers to help Calvin with his math and we find she is a math whiz (and shows that just because she gets into trouble at school does not mean that she is less intelligent).

“An old ass knows more than a young colt.”

We are introduced to Ms Which who … materializes?

This being a young adult book, I find that I love the words used and the phrasing.  “Darkness was a tangible quality; it can be moved through and felt; in darkness you can bark your shins; the world of things still exists around you. She was lost in a horrifying void.” The descriptive wording is beautifully done.  This is not a mindless book for a young person to read. It encourages the imagination while teaching young girls it is ok to be an explorer who is good at math.  Or it is ok to be a small child who is different from everyone else in the world.

When beginning to explain how it is they are able to make their way through a great expanse of distance, the children are told: We tesser. Or, you might say, we wrinkle.

wings made of rainbows, of light upon water, of poetry. Love it.

Mrs Whatsit morphs into something “else”.  In the descriptions she was horselike but not, she had wing, neither male nor female, sheer beautiful. 1962 and they are describing a gender fluid creature.  Calvin tries to bow to her in this form and he is told: No. Not to me.  They describe a song being sung: “Sing unto the lord a new song.”  I can hear the tune because, being Catholic, it is one of our hymns.  Is this a Christian fiction work of literature? When Ms Whatsit sighed, it seemed completely incomprehensible that through this bliss could come the faintest whisper of doubt. Wow, this is striking a lot of Christian cords.

Chapter four vocabulary words: Corporeal, Bark Your Shins, Corona (not the beer)

As I read the description of how they wrinkle time, I am struck by a memory of a similar story written by Stephen King called Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut.  “It is a tale about Mrs. Todd, who is obsessed with finding shortcuts. Her friend admires her persistence but begins to have doubts, as there are only so many shortcuts someone can find. Mrs. Todd’s habit of resetting her odometer shows remarkable evidence that something strange is going on. He also discovers evidence that her shortcuts are taking fewer miles than are in a straight line between the trip origin and its destination, something that would be impossible in reality. Mrs. Todd compares the shortcuts to folding a map to bring two points closer together, suggesting she has discovered a warped version of reality, akin to a wormhole.”  It was one of my favorite King short stories and I have often told friends who live a great distance from me that I wished I could “fold the map”, in reference to King’s story.

In describing dimensional shapes: 1, 2, 3 and 4 are easy to explain.  But to put four upon itself would make the fifth dimension, it is then told that a tesseract is the fifth dimension.

The Happy Medium is reluctant to show them their planet Earth through his crystal ball.  When he finally agrees, they find the planet covered in the shadow creature “IT”, the darkness enfolds the planet and obscures their view.  Meg asks if it has just come there in the time they have been gone.  She is told: No Meg, it has not just come. It has been there for a great many years. That is why your planet is such a troubled one. Very relevant for current young readers. This book was written in 1962, the state of unrest in the world at that time was also very overwhelming, very real.

When showing that they should not lose faith because there are those of “light” on our planet who can drive away the darkness, the first person they mention is Jesus.  They also mention: da Vinci, Shakespeare, Curie, Einstein, Ghandi, Buddah, Beethoven, as well as others.  Those of light, are the enlightened: the people who rise above mediocre in art, spirituality, science, etc.  They offer their light to the world.  This concept was my favorite thoughtline of the whole book.

Chapter five vocabulary words: Protoplasm

I rushed chapters six through twelve.  I needed to finish it. It had been a couple weeks of lesser sleep and other distractions.  So, I plugged through while writing fewer notes.

The three Misses are unable to go the last leg of the journey with the children, to where their father is.  They are on their own, left to their own measures.  The story, a story as old as time, is about light versus dark, good versus evil.  They find themselves on a planet where everyone must behave uniformly.  When they do not, they are punished for it.  They live in fear because of their rigid lifestyle.  There is a man, with red eyes, who repeats things so many times and with a cadence that they find themselves mesmerized.  Charles Wallace falls prey to the hypnotism.  He is used as a conduit of conversation when IT has control of his mind.  Charles Wallace leads his sister to Mr Murry and Meg uses eyeglasses provided to her by Ms Whatsit to get into his glass cell.  They are able to break free of the cell and along with Calvin, they confront the man with the red eyes.  To save them, Mr Murry wrinkles to a planet where they can recover and call the three Misses back for advice.

Meg is eventually left to her own devices to rescue Charles Wallace, who was left behind when their father wrinkled.  It is then that she realized the one thing she had that IT did not was LOVE.  The final and most important lesson, LOVE wins over evil.  They return to Earth through a wrinkle, reunite with Mrs Murry and live happily ever after.  Or…do they?  There are three books after this one so I am assuming the adventure continues.

Chapter six vocabulary words: Anticlimax, Propitious, Unmitigable

Chapter seven vocabulary words: Pumpkin Eater, ha ha ha (inside joke)

Chapter eight vocabulary words: Swivet

Chapter twelve vocabulary words: Iambic Pentameter

*******************************************************************************************

Overall, I did enjoy the book.  Had I not been distracted with everyday life and able to read it at a complete pace, I would have enjoyed it more.  Reanu and I will go see the movie this weekend (the critics are very negative in their reviews but that will not deter us). It will be interesting to see if they mention Jesus, God or maintain the level of spirituality that is consistent through the book.

This book would be very good for young Christian readers, if mothers are looking for books that have a more positive Christian impact on their children (or course there are mystical creatures, but…you know you can’t have it all).

The book is for very young readers.  Because of that, I will opt to read other books that are more pressing to be read before I read the sequels.

Have you read this?  Did you like it?

Let me know in the comments below.

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