Monday, April 28, 2014
A Wrinkle in Time
Read: 19 May to 21 May 2013
5 / 5 stars
I have one general, self-imposed rule about reviewing on Goodreads: I write about the books I've read in the order I've finished them. By that logic, I should be cobbling together my reaction to Hunger right now but I am so taken by this childhood staple that there's no room in my brain for anything other than uncontrollable glee over this book that another Madeleine has given to the world.
I never read this book as a kid. I didn't read it as a teenager or a college student. I read it for the first time with 30 coming at me like a crazed stalker who won't let a pesky thing like a restraining order stand in the way. And that did concern me, especially after half-heartedly slogging through the first four books comprising the Narnia Chronicles a few years ago before taking an indefinite break from tackling what should have been another enthusiastically remembered staple of a young reader's diet. I was afraid that I'd completely missed out on enjoying A Wrinkle in Time, a novel that I have heard praised up and down by so many people as the prime example of how good children's literature can be.
So I read it like I read as a wee lass who didn't realize that she was poised at the very beginning of what would become a lifelong pursuit of books fueled by an insatiable need to keep reading. I read well past my bedtime with one tiny light illuminating the path to somewhere magically transportive, knowing full well that the bookworm gratification far outweighed the inevitability of being a zombie all morning. I read it when I should have been doing something else as dictated by responsibility. I read to be told a story and to consider ideas I'd never come across in the world beyond two covers, sure, but mostly I read to give myself up to a writer's lush landscape, to lose myself in someone else's words. I read it to let my imagination run free through a universe I fervently and fruitlessly wished to be a part of.
And my adult self was just as enchanted as my inner child was. Sure, A Wrinkle in Time has its faults but I honestly couldn't tell you what they are because I was so thoroughly entertained, so taken with these characters I couldn't believe I could relate to in a way that was far less remote and removed than I expected (which is to say, at all) that all the things my nitpicky, pretentious post-English-major self would usually hone in on paled in comparison to the sheer enjoyment of the rush of letting a book completely suck me into its world to the point where the real world could have collapsed around me and I wouldn't've either cared or noticed because I was so wrapped up in this story.
On one hand, yeah, I do feel a little cheated that so much of what I needed to hear as a kid has lived within these pages all this time and I could have had such imperatives by my side to ease the pains of childhood's harsh but necessary learning experiences had I just shown even a fraction of some interest in this book. Among them: One's parents are not infallible. Weaknesses can become strengths -- nay, tools integral to besting some truly harrowing obstacles -- in the right circumstances. That sometimes you have to face down scary or unpleasant truths, and you're not excused from looking away or backing down just because the task ahead is either scary or unpleasant. It's better to embrace your individuality and not compromise yourself, no matter how uncomfortable you are in your own skin, than to mindlessly submit to the herd mentality and easy conformity. Just because something appears strange doesn't make it bad -- or all that strange at its core, after all. What things are is infinitely more important than what they look like.
But conversely? This book drenched my ordinary existence with fantasy's magic for a few days, and I'm sure it'll stick with me in the days to come. My first encounter with this book wasn't a foggily but fondly recalled childhood memory that's destined to be tarnished by the darkening cynicism of the years upon revisits from my older self. I got to experience the breathless wonder of a kid discovering an instant favorite for that very first time as an oasis of sheer escapist rapture in the face of a few intense work days and the humdrum nature of routine adulthood. And it proved to me that I don't always have to be such a goddamn snob about kid lit because when it's good, it is extraordinary. (And, really, let's be honest: Younger Me wasn't exactly the sharpest crayon in the tool shed, so who's to say I would have picked up on the more subtle elements that made this such a delightful read, anyway?)
Despite my natural inclination toward hyperbole, I am not exaggerating when I say I'm a little better for having read this book, one that I initially arrived at out of dubious curiosity and left in a state of giddy, childlike awe. And maybe a few tears.