Madeline L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all time favorite books. I know I’m not alone. But while reading it with my 9 year old this month, I was surprised to find that despite the book being very important to me, I had forgotten nearly everything in its pages.
What I remembered: time/space travel, a very smart child named Charles Wallace, some strong weather at the beginning, a missing father, a malevolent (I think!) force called IT.
What I had forgotten: the word, tesseract, which for some reason, my mother gave me as a name when I was little. Also forgotten: how sophisticated many of the words in the book actually are. And the fact that Calvin likes not only Meg but also her mother.
Which made me remember: we used to read books like A Wrinkle in Time on our own time and without incident. Which isn’t to say that we understood all of what we read. Rereading the book today, I know it isn’t possible that I understood the book deeply. Clearly, I didn’t remember it well.
But, it sort of didn’t matter. I thought I read it, and I really loved it. And, I don’t think we were expected to understand what we read all the way through back then. Instead, we were expected to read a lot. To just read. Whatever we wanted, and as often as possible. It was totally fine for us to pick up a book and put it down, only to pick it up months or even years later and resume as if no time had passed at all.
That’s why my mother thought nothing of giving me a copy of Jane Eyre when I was 10. And again when I was 12. And then again when I was 15, at which point I could finally make sense of the first pages and persevered all the way to the end.
Books were our wrinkle in time. We’d open a portal to one and walk through. Stay a while in its world and then exit on the other side, changed.
this is one of my all-time favorite books. Last year at my 20th college reunion I was on a panel called “books that changed my life” (and was by far the least impressive and credentialed person on the panel – in fact it wasn’t clear WHY i was on it at all) and I talked about Wrinkle. I love this book. I was struck upon my 3rd re-reading by the liberal use of quotations from other literature and writing. Everytime I read it I realize something new. xox
Lindsey, exactly!! I had completely forgotten how many direct references to other literary works there are woven into this text!