Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time”

Square Fish; http://us.macmillan.com/awrinkleintime/MadeleineLEngleMeg Murry is the victim of the dreaded “p” word: potential. She’s brilliant and on the verge of blossoming but has yet to embrace who she is; she’s the quintessential outsider in school and at home. With the help of space and time – literally – however, Meg taps into a store of bravery buried deep to come to the rescue of her beloved family and live up to every teacher’s buzzword. Potential.

Plot Overview: Mystery, Self-actualization and Family

One dark and stormy night at home, Meg wanders downstairs for a midnight snack with one of her younger brothers, Charles Wallace, and her mother. Shortly after, Mrs. Whatsit, the family’s new neighbor, disrupts the cozy family meal. Over the coming days, Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s crush, high school student Calvin O’Keefe, find themselves interacting with the mysterious woman who lives in the haunted house down the street and her acquaintances, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.

The trio of supernatural beings explains to Meg that they have landed on earth through a tessaract, a fold between time and space that the Murry patriarch had been exploring before his disappearance. Thrilled to learn their father is alive and can be found, Meg and Charles Wallace, accompanied by Calvin, embark on a journey that takes them across planets and into a battle against the “Black Thing.” When they finally return home, each is irreparably changed – and more mature.

Criticisms and Compliments

Although her novels were published more than 50 years ago, Madeleine L’Engle’s writing has a universality unparalleled by other young adult fiction. Her approach to fiction – taking complex issues (tessaracts, spirituality, self-actualization and acceptance, love, familial relationships, emotional turmoil) and portraying them in a simple, but not oversimplified way – is evidence of remarkable storytelling skills. And more than her clever elements (who can’t appreciate the “Happy Medium” in A Wrinkle in Time?), L’Engle’s writing is gently philosophical and thought-provoking. For that reason, her novels play a pivotal role for adolescent readers; when teenagers are looking for answers, L’Engle provides the important questions: What do I believe? What is good? What is evil? Who am I?

What’s interesting about L’Engle is her approach to religion. Much like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, both of whom were deeply religious and whose Christian beliefs played out in their novels, L’Engle does include Christian elements – angels, good versus evil, light versus dark – but her beliefs don’t seem limited to just a Judeo-Christian narrative; her scope is wide and accepting (which could explain the backlash L’Engle has received and why her books occasionally fall on banned book lists). Overall, L’Engle’s stories are refreshingly open-minded and provocative, and they are certainly not limited to teenage readers.

Source:

  • L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. Square Fish, 1962 ISBN 9780312367541

Claire Avery, “Hidden Wives”

Forge Books; us.macmillan.com/hiddenwivesRachel and Sara Shaw are best friends, half-sisters and members of a severe polygamous sect known as the Blood of the Lamb. As the two girls prepare to be wed, one to her uncle and the other to the community’s sinister leader, Prophet Silver, they begin to question the paths their lives are taking.

Sara, gawky and plain, thirsts for knowledge and dreams of escaping her abusive household; Rachel is beautiful and a deep believer in her faith – at least until she meets a newcomer, one who forces her to question her future within the sect. Hidden Wives is an intense and disturbing look at the cruelty two girls are forced to endure.

Plot Overview: Victimization, Ignorance and Freedom

Sara Shaw is a girl suffocating in her own life. Her parents have transferred her from the local public school – her personal sanctuary – to the sect’s religious school, and Prophet Silver has decided that she will be bound in a celestial marriage to her uncle. Terrified of having deformed children and of being trapped in a loveless relationship, Sara plans to escape. With the help of her secret friend, Irvin, a quirky African-American boy with a speech impediment, Sara will take her first terrifying steps towards freedom.

Well-known throughout the small Blood of the Lamb community, Rachel is a stunning girl. Complementing her beauty is her natural kindness and optimistic spirit; unfortunately, these qualities make her vulnerable, particularly to the predatory men in her life. When she meets Luke, a new member who questions the legitimacy of the faith, Rachel finds herself struggling to negotiate her own beliefs with his. For Rachel, true love should conquer all, but in the Blood of the Lamb sect, can such love even exist?

Criticisms and Compliments

Hidden Wives is difficult book to read; although the subject matter is interesting and trendy, the graphic descriptions of incest, molestation and abuse are deeply disturbing. For a book describing a polygamous sect called Blood of the Lamb, Hidden Wives certainly offers up its two protagonists as the proverbial sacrifices. Innocent teen girls Sara and Rachel are just on the brink of womanhood, yet they are forced to view themselves as objects, victims subject to the whimsies of men. In this particular sect, women are vessels with no individuality or freedom to call their own. Their duty is to bear children and be at the beck and call of their husbands. It is, frankly, a sad way to live.

Although Claire Avery – the pseudonym of two sisters – paints a bleak story, her characters are well-drawn and appealing, especially Sara; as a non-believer and skeptic, she provides the voice of reason for the novel, putting the seemingly outrageous plot in perspective. Moreover, it is clear that Avery has done her homework as the descriptions of the Blood of the Lamb rituals and ways of life are vivid.

Hidden Wives is not a light-hearted read and should not be approached as merely an inside look at a polygamous sect. Rather, it is an unsettling exploration of the horrific actions people make in the name of faith.

Source:

  • Avery, Claire. Hidden Wives. Forge Books, 2010 ISBN 9780765326898

Nora Roberts, ” The Three Sisters Island Trilogy”

Faced with embracing their own natural powers – and finding true love – witches Nell, Ripley and Mia must confront who they are and what they must become. As each struggles with emotional and physical obstacles, a dark force threatens their progress. With Roberts’s experienced storytelling, The Three Sisters Island Trilogy (Dance Upon the Air, Heaven and Earth and Face the Fire) is a combination of love, rebirth and the supernatural.

Plot Overview: Love, Magic and Sisterhood

Seeing Three Sisters Island for the first time, Nell feels she has finally come home in Dance Upon the Air. After faking her own death and criss-crossing the United States to escape a sociopathic and abusive husband, Nell just wants to feel safe. As she cautiously settles into a new life on the island, she is befriended and employed by Mia Devlin, the owner of a combination café-bookstore. With both Mia and Ripley Todd’s friendship, Nell’s confidence and self-esteem soar, and she slowly opens her heart to love again.

Jove; http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780515132021,00.html?Heaven_and_Earth_Nora_Roberts#Ripley Todd, deputy sheriff on the island, strongly denies her supernatural abilities in Heaven and Earth. When paranormal scientist Macallister Booke, or “Mac,” lands on the island to investigate its history of witchcraft, Ripley’s resistance takes a hit. The two set off sparks, recorded by Mac’s scientific equipment. With Mac’s gentle pushing, Ripley reluctantly takes control of her gift.

The most powerful of the three women, Mia Devlin, in Face the Fire, is a witch comfortable with her abilities. Sexy, confident and successful, Mia enjoys her life and her solitude. Having had her heart broken ten years before, she isolates herself from love and emotional intimacy until Sam Logan, her former lover, returns to the island. As they reconcile their relationship, Mia must make a decision: open her heart to Sam again and risk the safety of her friends and neighbors or live a lifetime without hurt – and love.

Criticisms and Compliments

Jove; http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780515132878,00.html?Face_the_Fire_Nora_RobertsDespite Roberts’s storytelling abilities, The Three Sisters Island Trilogy falls just a little flat as it does not have as much passion of her other trilogies, like The Circle Trilogy. Rather, the trilogy is a little more ethereal, especially Nell’s story.

In most of Roberts’s novels, the villain is clearly identified and developed; in the case of the Three Sisters Island Trilogy, however, the antagonist is more abstract. Roberts usually excels at introducing abusive men and swiftly serving them with a dose of karmic retribution. In Dance Upon the Air, Roberts metes out justice against Evan Remington, Nell’s ex-husband, but his punishment feels hollow. Nevertheless, The Three Sisters Island Trilogy is an enjoyable read and a nice escape from reality.

Source:

  • Roberts, Nora. Three Sisters Island Trilogy (Dance Upon the Air, Heaven and Earth, Face the Fire). Jove, 2003 ISBN 9780515131222