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Spotlight on: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and their new friend Calvin O’Keefe are taken by an unusual trio to find the Murrys’ father, who has spent the last few years fighting a shadow that is threatening to take over Earth. Charles Wallace is underestimated by those outside the family. He goes by both names and, like Meg, is presumed to be less intelligent than the average person because of his preference for silence. (He was inspired by the author’s two sons, Charles and Wallace, to whom A Wrinkle in Time is also dedicated.)

The strange trio of helpers consists of the improbably named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, all of whom may not be female, or any gender at all. They lead the children on a time/space travel adventure that will allow them to use their talents (and faults) to return their father safely. (Their search for "the father" to challenge "the darkness" has caused many to call it a religious allegory. This theory becomes especially viable near the end.)

Despite its status as a Newbery Award–winning "classic" and favorite of children everywhere, A Wrinkle in Time did not impress me, generally speaking. There are many things to like about Madeleine L’Engle’s most famous novel (like the odd method of travel that, at one juncture, requires them to become 2-D). However, these positive attributes could be forgotten while waiting for L’Engle to slowly (and ironically, considering the ease at which her characters travel through time) stretch what is essentially a short-story plot to novel length.

Another possible reason for my disappointment is that I don’t generally like fantasy novels. I prefer to read about familiar, this-worldly environments, feeling that having to learn another world negates the idea of reading for relaxation. Admittedly, A Wrinkle in Time doesn’t have as much of this as, say, The Lord of the Rings, but there is enough to make a difference.

Nevertheless, despite my dislike for the subject matter and a level of silliness that pervades (one character even speaks in double-consonants -- llikke tthhiss), I could not resist the pull of A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle, at least, knows how to make characters the reader cares about. Even as I was telling myself I didn’t like the book, I was compelled to know what would happen next. It was as if, like in the book, my mind were under the power of the hypnotic entity referred to as IT.

The character of Sawyer was seen reading A Wrinkle in Time on a recent episode of Lost. What this says about the character, or this mysterious series, is up for debate. What it says to me is that, despite its reputation as mindless entertainment, even television can inspire you to pick up a book.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form in The Gardner News. Copyright 2005.

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