My Favorite Banned Books: A Wrinkle in Time

I don’t usually care much for science fiction, but A Wrinkle in Time is an exception–probably because it is more like a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and because it’s driven by people and emotion and spirit, as are most of the books I love. I still find it beautiful and haunting and heart-stirring even now.

Attempts to ban the book have mostly cited the time-honored “promotes witchcraft” reason, although one attempted ban “objected to the book’s listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil.”

It’s funny that I never knew about these attempts as a child, considering that my mother was a VERY conservative fundamentalist christian, and my father was an almost-as-conservative lapsed Catholic. But my parents, for all their conservatism, had this funny idea that if they taught me their values, talked to me about the issues, and shared their thoughts with me, then they could trust me to encounter things out in the world and make good choices for myself. Maybe they didn’t completely miss the 60’s after all? (Of course I didn’t turn out the way they expected, but I still think they were right about the whole making good choices for myself thing, in the long run.)

So: the obligatory blurb from the back of the book:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

This synopsis does nothing to capture the wonder and emotional intensity of this novel. Meg is an outcast, Charles Wallace is a precocious and possibly psychic child, and Calvin O’Keefe may be popular, but his family is a nightmare. All of them are facing their insecurities and sorrows on this journey through time and space, where they will not only be seeking the Murray’s father, but also be confronting evil on a larger scale.

This novel delighted and frightened me as a child. It doesn’t frighten me any more, but it’s still delightful. If, somehow, you missed reading it–you’d better rectify the situation immediately.

I was very sorry to hear that L’Engle died in 2007. I saw her speak at a writing conference when I was still in college, and it was the highlight of the entire day. She was a wonderful speaker, vibrant and funny and smart. I hope, wherever she is, she is enjoying her bliss.

Links to articles about the book and its author:

Wikipedia’s entry on the novel

The Random House page on the most recent edition of the novel, with a message from Madeleine L’Engle at the bottom of the page

“Some of the best books in life are . . . banned?”

2004 Newsweek interview with L’Engle

A Wrinkle In Time reviewed at The Open Critic

Madeleine L’Engle’s website

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