When I was a child, before “Young Adult” was a genre that was really a thing, I loved to read. Certain books stood out for me, and I reread them until the pages got soft and started to fall out. I’d carefully tape them back in and read again. It didn’t matter that I knew what was going to happen. The characters in there, familiar in words and gestures, were my friends, and I liked to visit them and see the world through their eyes.
Meg Murry, and her little brother, Charles Wallace, were two of my best friends. I had a whopper of a crush on Calvin O’Keefe. I read “A Wrinkle in Time” and its sequels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet over and over again.
It has probably been 30 or more years since I read these books. When I saw that a movie was set to come out some time next year starring, of all people, Oprah Winfrey, I felt compelled to reread it before seeing the movie. (Because we all know I’m going to see the movie, probably the day it comes out like the fangirl I am.)
Wow. No wonder I loved that book.
Reading childhood favorites as an adult is always an interesting experience. You come at it from a different place, with knowledge of the world, and seeing the adult characters more fully formed. They aren’t just parents, they are people, whose love for their children and desire to understand them shapes the way they act. If a children’s book is written well, there is way more to it than the superficial story that appeals to children too young to understand what is behind it. You get something new every time you read it, because you are a new person every time you read it, a person who has experienced just that little bit more and knows that much more about the world.
Have I mentioned that I love this book? Meg is, I see now, a variation of me. Both the real me and the me I want to be. She is physically awkward and smart, not terribly popular, but not as unpopular as she thinks she is. She is strong and loving, willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her odd brother and her parents. This book was published in the early 60s, and I realize now how radical it must have seemed at the time. Meg’s mother is a scientist whose research trumps traditional mothering activities. Meg herself is a math whiz. While now those things are somewhat unremarkable, centering a book in which the scientific knowledge of Meg and her brother are key to resolving the essential conflict in the early 60’s must have been downright scandalous in many circles.
Without giving too much away, Meg’s father has been missing for some time. No one, in the family, at least, believes him to be dead, but no one has a clue what happened to him, either. With the help of the otherworldly and strange Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe set off to rescue Mr. Murry. Calvin is an otherwise popular boy who hides away the fact that he’s actually pretty smart and thoughtful because that wouldn’t help his social life. The three children end up in a round about way on planet Camazotz, which is peaceful and serene because everything and everyone is the same. Creepy.
So what is this book about? On the surface it’s a science fiction adventure, chock full of theoretical physics, time travel, inter-dimentional experiences, and alien beings. A Wrinkle in Time refers to a tesseract, which is a means of traveling light years away in no time at all. (In real life geometry, and also in the book, a tesseract is a fourth dimentional rendering of a cube.) Beyond that, it’s an ode to the power of love, the ultimate triumph of goodness over evil, the utility and necessity of independent thought, or courage and loyalty, and the benefits of being yourself. There’s even religious references, though I admit they went completely over my head when I read them as a young person.
I can NOT wait to see this movie, though no doubt it will disappoint me. The trailer is pretty cool, though. And Chris Pine, who is both my celebrity crush and happens to be in every movie ever made these days, plays Mr. Murry. So whoop. But, it’s hard to imagine anything I would love as much as this book.
To read your copy before the movie comes out, click the handy-dandy Amazon link below.