“It was a dark and stormy night.” The opening of this book imprinted itself on my ten-year-old brain in ways I didn’t fully realize until I returned to it over four decades later. I first read A Wrinkle in Time in 1975 when my grandmother, a children’s librarian, gave me a copy for my birthday. It wasn’t just any copy; it was a signed copy that my grandmother had purchased in 1963 when she attended the Newberry-Caldecott award dinner in Chicago—almost two years before my parents would meet in a crowded bar in Grinnell, Iowa. On faith that she would one day have a granddaughter or two that were readers, she purchased A Wrinkle in Time along with a copy of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, which was one of my first picture books.
I remember loving this book. Meg, in all her over-emotional awkwardness and anger, mirrored my own pre-teen-ness and I liked the way L’Engle threw me both into the bustling world of the Murray household (which I longed to inhabit) and into the fantastical worlds that Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace journey through in search of Mr. Murray. I was blind to any religious or political themes, just as I has skipped joyfully past them in the Chronicles of Narnia, two years before. [Yes, as a daughter of a lapsed Lutheran and a lapsed Jew, picking up on religious symbolism was not a skill I had yet developed.]
In anticipation of the Ava Duvernay film and the CBR10 book discussion, I pulled out my childhood copy of A Wrinkle in Time and realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had read it. I’m sure that I revisited it many times as a kid, but I don’t think I have touched it since then.
The experience was interesting. I still connected with Meg, enjoyed the developing relationship between Meg and Calvin, and loved the character of Charles Wallace. The overall story of love and time still worked for me, and now I can see how it shaped so many fantasy stories that came after it, as well as a lot of the bad fiction I created as an early teen. However, I was surprised at how quickly it all moved and how abrupt the ending seemed. I don’t think I remembered this book feeling like a cliffhanger as a kid but it feels like one to me now. Sure, the Murrays got their dad back but there’s still a big mass of evil heading their way. As an adult, I didn’t find the book as satisfying as I remember it but that says more about my own aging process than anything else.
In a related note, the folks at the Pop Culture Happy Hour have warned me (as Ava Duvernay apparently warned them) that I may have to check my cynicism at the door when I see the new film version. I’ll try but I suspect I’ll still giggle when Oprah shows up on screen in a colorful outfit, which suggests I haven’t come all that far from my ten-year-old self.