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A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L'Engle

By Michelle Watkins
Published: May 16, 2017
Category: Children

GUEST BUTLER MICHELLE WATKINS has been a Head Butler reader for so long she has two seats on the aisle for any movie or play I get produced. She and Madeleine L’Engle share a birthday.

It was book club selection time again. For me, like Butler, that means short and moving and something to talk about. So, to change it up, I thought about offering a children’s classic. We could revisit — or visit for the first time — a book we’d read when our ideas about the world were a whole lot different.

But which one?

Then I stumbled across the online tidbit that Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling were shooting a children’s classic, directed by Ava DuVernay, the director of “Selma.” The $100+ million film will be released in April, 2018.

Done. “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle was my proposal — although I’d never read it. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

Actually, the way our book club works is that you propose two, and the group votes. My other? “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume — that’s the kind of book I did read back then. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

When it was my turn to tell the group my choices, my friends said, “Ohhhh. Those are goooood.” By a narrow margin, “Wrinkle” — a book rejected by 30 publishers before finding a home and becoming an instant classic — won, but I’m betting “Margaret” probably will make her way into the list before the year’s out.

Another ritual of the club: On an index card, everybody writes a sentence she loved. A character liked or despised. Anything that made her stop. And everybody puts her card face down onto the table as we get our veggie pizza, other potluck goodies and wine. Then, we pick a card, any card. And talk. For Wrinkle that meant discussing lines like:

“You see on this planet, everything is in perfect order because everybody has learned to relax, to give in, to submit.”

“I am peace and utter rest. I am freedom from all responsibility. To come to me is the last difficult decision you will ever need to make.”

“…when I’m mad I don’t have room to be scared.”

“Our faults can be our greatest strengths.”

Simply put, Wrinkle is a fantasy story about 13-year-old Meg Murry who must time travel to save her scientist father, who’s been imprisoned by extraterrestrials, and her genius little brother from the clutches of IT, a powerful being on another planet. There’s a teenage boy in there, too, but the girl’s our hero, inspired by three “good witches” … enter the multicultural trio of Reese, Oprah, and Mindy.

And judging by our wide-ranging book club conversation, they’re onto a story that’s perfect for today — a message of resistance, of standing up for what’s right and good, a message about the power of love. Sure, it’s another take on fighting the good fight, but this “dark side” is embodied by the One who says he alone has all the answers (sound familiar?) — “answers” that include perfect houses, lawns and kids who bounce balls in unison.

In her Newbery speech. Madeleine L’Engle said that fantasy must “possess the author and simply use him… It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized some of what it meant.”

And in the near future, with the marketing machines of Hollywood behind it, this story is going to be everywhere. It will be interesting to see what kids and their parents think it means. “Wrinkle” is recommended for kids 10 to 14. But if my book club is any guide, you might enjoy reading or re-reading the book and see what jumps out at you.

Our club’s great wish? That the movie lives up to it.

PS You’re up soon, Margaret.

Can’t wait.