Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.
I have a tendency to be somewhat contrary about my reading choices. If it seems that EVERYONE in the entire world really loves a thing, I take that as a sign that I shouldn’t bother reading it. It’s one of very few rebellions that I engage in and there’s so much in the world to read that I’ve never actively pushed back against this completely misguided tendency. However, it was this spark of defiance that resulted in me never picking up A Wrinkle in Time when I was precisely the age and the type of child that would have really loved and connected with it. But, you see, EVERYONE loved A Wrinkle in Time, even the popular girls who (in my mind) probably never ever read anything else because they were too busy doing their hair. And I was a NERD. I read comic books, played D&D, loved video games, had read the Hobbit when I was 8 and Lord of the Rings when I was 12, so if the popular girls liked the book then there was NO WAY that I would ever demean myself by picking it up. Look, I had issues, OK? However, that means that I am now reading A Wrinkle in Time for the first time and I’m really angry at myself for having stuck my nose up at it when I needed it.
A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Meg Murry, her precocious brother, Charles Wallace, a boy named Calvin, and their search for the Murry children’s physicist father who has discovered how to apparate across space and time, but also that space and time is being threatened by a nebulous evil force. The three children are aided in their journey and the ultimate battle of good and evil by three supernatural beings, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. But most of what the children accomplish is ultimately due to their own strong wills, wits, and love for one another.
But, I have to be honest, everyone. I couldn’t finish it. I really wanted to like this book. So much so that I haven’t touched Retro Childhood Review in 5 months (OK, well that and a mental health breakdown). But I genuinely felt guilty for not being able to finish A Wrinkle in Time, for not loving something that I should be able to love. And there were certainly aspects that I enjoyed tremendously. The characterizations of the Mrs. Ws was a joy and Who’s proclivity to use quotes to communicate was particularly delightful. However, as an adult, the themes of anti-conformity rang oddly false. Which is not to say that I don’t believe in full conformity, but I’ve come to believe that working for the greater good sometimes does require the sacrifice of self. Unfortunately, L’Engle tied conformity directly with evil, or perhaps, more accurately, as a product of evil or something easily manipulated by evil, which left me cold. Though this is clearly the case within fascist regimes, I still struggled with it within the context of a children’s book.
Surely one or two of you will gasp at horror with this admission, but here I am 5 months later with A Wrinkle in Time sitting on my nightstand gathering dust. The magic isn’t there for me. Perhaps this is one of those books that is best wrapped in the hands of a child looking to find a way that their own individuality can be, not just a positive but a way to conquer the darkness. This is a message that I utterly believe in, but it’s a lesson that I learned so long ago and in such a different political environment, that perhaps I now worry that the singularly American obsession with individuality has done more harm than good. Regardless, it’s not my story anymore, but I do hope it’s someone’s story and that they find peace within its pages.