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To be honest, I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle a long time ago – so some of the finer details of the plot and themes may escape me. But like a lot of the books I read when I was teenager, I have a clear picture of the “Feeling” I had when reading this book and the emotions it stirred in me. The feeling I had was that I’d never read anything quite like it before, and the emotions were a mixture of sadness and empathy for the characters due to certain similarities to events in my own life and how they affected me. No, I’ve never traveled through a fifth-dimensional tesseract or done battle with a telepathic evil being. But I did lose a parent at an early age and I remember being acutely aware of the feelings of frustration and powerlessness that the Mury children feel at the beginning of the book. And while my father wasn’t accidentally trapped on alien planet while working on faster-than-light technology for the government, it was a comforting thought to think that maybe, just maybe, he might still be somewhere out there just waiting for me to come rescue him.
A Wrinkle in Time Summary: The main protagonist of the story is young Meg Mury, the socially troubled but mathematically brilliant oldest child of the Mury family. It is mostly through her eyes that we feel the peculiar awkwardness, anger and loneliness that comes with being a teenager, as well as the sense of longing that she feels for her absent father. Add to that the resentment and jealousy she feels towards he beautiful mother (who also happens to be a successful Microbiologist) and you have a severely wounded character in an even more dysfunctional family. Meg’s youngest brother, Charles Wallace Mury, is a brilliant but shy child who slowly learns over the course of the book that he has telepathic powers that give him the ability to read people’s thoughts and feelings. Although he is intellectually extraordinary, he is still very much a vulnerable child and Meg is particularly protective of him.
The events in the novel are set in motion by the appearance of the cryptically named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which who reveal some of the details of their father’s mysterious disappearance and offer to help them rescue him. Accompanied by a neighborhood boy named Calvin O’Keefe, Meg and Charles Wallace are taken the Mrs. Ws through a transport device (the previously mentioned Tesseract) that is able to fold space-time and deposit them in another part of the universe. After a brief stay on the utopian world of Uriel (filled with joyful Centaurs) and an explanation by the Ws as to how their father became trapped, the group travel to the planet Camazotz where their father is supposedly held prisoner by a telepathic disembodied brained called IT. Is is there that the trio is forced to confront the evil presence in order to save their father.
A Wrinkle in Time Review: With its mixture of scientific exploration, mythological creatures, biblical allusions and philosophical underpinnings, A Wrinkle in Time walks a fine line between Science Fiction and Fantasy. And as a tale told through the eyes of children that also features a mature discussion on the nature of Evil, it also defies classification as either a children’s book or an adult novel. Reading it as a child, I remember liking the fantasy elements while also appreciating the fact that it didn’t talk down to the children in the book. By treating the children as real people with their own damaged sense of self and quirky set of emotions, L’Engle is able to imbue the characters with a more authentic sense of self – making it easier for us to both identify with and root for them. My own personal connection to the novel notwithstanding, I would recommend this book to readers of any age who are looking for a science fantasy story with heart and brains.