a reading life: The Time Quartet


My 5th grade class did not study A Wrinkle in Time, but I had already read it by the time the other 5th grade class did. My copy came from my aunt, so if I had to guess, I would say that it was in that stack of Newbery books I got for my 10th birthday.

For many years, I had a very bad habit of ignoring quotes in books. Carefully-chosen quotes at the beginning of chapters? They didn’t advance the story as far as I was concerned, so I skipped them. My gulping inhalation of books did not allow for the kind of pause that those quotes intended. I did not have time to unravel their meanings. A Wrinkle in Time features quite a few quotes – not at the beginning of chapters, but throughout the story. It turns out these quotes are kind of important to what is happening, so my newly-10-year-old self did not really understand what was going on, having skipped the quotes that I did not already know from the Bible.

I read it again a few years later, when my ideas about Jesus and truth and art had softened a little bit, when I could see how artists and philosophers shine the light of truth in our dark world. I am more like Meg than some people might realize, stubborn and with more than a few authority issues. Impulsive in the sense that I like to swoop in and fix things. When Meg was given the gift of her faults, it was a gift to me as well, the idea that all these things that seem so wrong about myself might turn out to help me in the end. It is a lesson I am still trying to learn, a gift to me even now as I grow into motherhood.

I got Many Waters for Christmas at some point, remember opening it while sitting on the floor of my Grandma’s house. It expands the story of Noah by focusing on what was happening to the characters around him, especially the women, who are not named in the Biblical text. This was my first introduction to one of my favorite types of storytelling: letting the other characters speak, seeing events from another perspective. Who were the women in Noah’s family? Why didn’t we know more about them? Did Noah have any daughters? What happened to them?

The community of women around me always encouraged me to believe that I could grow up to be anything that I wanted, supported me in my gifts and pursuits. Though none of us would have used that word, they were raising me to be a feminist, to know that women are not second best. Though The Time Quartet is not as close to my heart as many other Madeleine L’Engle novels, I can look back now and see that Meg’s faults and her deep ability to love and those questions about where the women are in the story of Noah were some of my own first steps towards becoming a feminist myself.

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