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