At some point this winter, an urge to reread Madeline L’Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time came over me. I had read it many times when I was younger, along with the next two volumes in that series, so it’s not surprising that I had that urge; I like to revisit old friends periodically.
In general I’m a sucker for series; poking around a bit, I realized that L’Engle had written two other related series. I’m not sure how many of the volumes in those series I’d read when I was growing up, but I have only the dimmest of memories of them, so I imagine the number is small. Which is out-of-character for me; I decided to remedy that lack on this go around.
The three series are quite a body of work, it turns out. I’d remembered the three aforementioned books fairly accurately: among other things, they can be considered a science fiction trilogy, but a very odd one indeed. I was and am a big science fiction fan, but the science in those books doesn’t make any sense; part of what replaces it is mysticism, which I’m also a fan of, but it’s not particularly convincing mysticism, either. A Wrinkle in Time is still a special book, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet pushes some of my buttons, but their odd relationship to genres I liked probably explains why I didn’t read L’Engle more widely. (Especially given that her other books mostly aren’t in those genres at all, being instead straight fiction.)
This time, though, the books in all three series worked for me. I won’t say that I loved every book that I read, but I at least liked all of them; probably my favorite one was Meet the Austins, which had me crying on one or two occasions. I doubt I would have enjoyed them nearly as much when I was younger—in particular, family is a big theme across all of them, and family is a lot more important to me as a parent than it’s ever been to me as a child—but there’s a lot of special stuff in them.
I also really appreciated her unabashedly including important themes. Family, as mentioned above, appears in every book, but it’s not the only repeated theme: they’re pervaded with goodness, with love, with friends, with growing up and finding your way, with science, with music, with art in general. And with religion, something I have an odd relationship with: in particular, I’m an atheist, but one who feels unhappy disliking Christianity and Christians. The last few decades have been hard on that score—there have been a lot of people in the press doing evil in the name of Christianity—so I’m glad to read about people whom I like very much and for whom Christianity is a quiet but strong underpinning to their lives.
I ended up going through thirteen of her books over the course of a month and a half; that wouldn’t have been a particularly fast pace for me over much of my life, but I have enough competing for my attention that it’s pretty unusual for me these days. Now that I’ve finished those books, I’m slowing down my pace of L’Engle reading, but not stopping entirely; in particular, I want to read through her autobiography, because I’m curious where all these repeated elements in her work grew out of.
This post has not been revised since publication.