One of the suggestions I received in my blog box this year was from one of my own teachers, Mrs. Hermesmann. She suggested a blog about “one book everyone should read and why.” Since she teaches 8th and 9th grade Literature and English, I asked if she would be willing to take on her own suggestion and she accepted. Perhaps some of you would like to write about this too. Please feel free to share your book reviews in the blog box. The following is a book review about the book A Wrinkle in Time from Mrs. Hermesmann and maybe, just maybe, you could consider adding this one to your summer reading list. ~ Caroline O’Neal
Like a well-worn path, the theme of light and darkness has been trod many a time by authors of all genres. The theme is common, but captivating; and, perhaps, even comforting to readers. Children’s literature, especially fantasy, deftly renders this great yet familiar issue of the human experience. Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the 1963 Newberry Medal, presents an exciting world of cosmic proportions that is deeply connected with our own. In L’Engle’s world, like ours, good and evil are immediate, active, and at war. This fantasy novel provides for its readers not only a thrilling plot and relatable characters, but also a hopeful message of how to live for good in the face of evil.
L’Engle begins A Wrinkle in Time with the chilling and suspenseful words, “It was a dark and stormy night.” In doing so, she immediately builds the reader’s intrigue from the first moment of encounter. To the reader, these words subtly promise that something out of the ordinary is going on. Certainly, it is. As soon revealed, Meg Murray, the protagonist and heroine of the story, has a terrible problem: her father is missing. Mr. Murray is a renowned and respected physicist who has recently been asked by the government to travel and complete some confidential research. For a while, Meg’s mother and father wrote each other letters every day – until his letters stopped coming. In order to find her father, Meg, must set out on a journey of, literally, cosmic proportions with her younger brother, Charles, and a boy named Calvin.
While L’Engle narrates adventures in A Wrinkle in Time that readers will never experience, she connects to their ordinary lives through relatable characters like Meg Murray. Meg is awkward, often unhappy, and unaware of her own abilities. She wears braces and glasses and perpetually despises her hair. Meg is like any reader in her struggles and insecurities. But even more relevantly, Meg is confronted by evil. For her, it is in the form of the disembodied IT – a force that is dark, powerful, and controlling. One of Meg’s guides, Mrs. Whatsit, wisely states that “only a fool is not afraid” in the face of evil. Meg is certainly afraid when she confronts darkness and evil, as are we. But, by recognizing the darkness and evil for what it is – unloving and empty – Meg gains the courage to fight it.
At the heart of A Wrinkle in Time is the steady, pulsing message of hope: light can defeat darkness. In this story, just as in reality, evil is a great and terrifying force—it is a shadow “dark and dreadful.” Calvin, echoing the thoughts of the other characters, begs of Mrs. Whatsit for it to “go away.” But, how does one fight a shadow? In A Wrinkle in Time, darkness – physical, emotional, or spiritual – is never completely annihilated, but it is overcome in small ways. It is overcome in the only way it truly can be, whether in stories or reality: by love and beauty. It is Meg’s great love for her father and brother Charles that enable her to fight the unloving IT. Furthermore, Mrs. Whatsit explains that it is beauty that comes as light in darkness; first in the form of Jesus Christ, and then imitated by artists and scientists – those who love the beauty of His creation, from da Vinci to Shakespeare to Beethoven to Einstein.
It is this message – along with the exciting plot and relatable characters – that makes L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time such an indispensable, worthwhile read. For, like Meg Murray and her companions, we too confront darkness and evil in our daily lives. But also like Meg Murray, we can fight the darkness – physical, emotional, and spiritual – through love and beauty. In all the ins and outs of family life we may choose to love through acts as simple as the making of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as mundane as the conversations while stopped at a traffic light, and as unexciting as the cleaning of our rooms and homes. But we also fight darkness through the love, exploration, and creation of beauty. And isn’t this the ultimate purpose of education? Certainly, we hope that students are trained and prepared for success in jobs and careers. But that is a shallow goal in comparison to what a true education can accomplish in the lives of students. For knowledge of God and the beauty of his creation shines light into the darkness of students’ minds, hearts, and lives. And once we, as students, have received beauty, we in turn may create more.