I was nine years old when I first read the children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time. My mother loved it as a child and urged me to read it. I absolutely hated it. It was scary, and I never liked science fiction all that much anyway. For years and years afterwards I would tell people that it was one of my least favorite books. My never forgotten dislike of this book became a running joke between my mother and me.
However, over the years I have kept hearing others around me singing its praises. Reading A Wrinkle in Time seemed to be a seminal moment in so many people’s lives. Almost inevitably, I began to doubt my own hatred of the book – after all, I was just a kid when I first read it. Then, about a week ago, I started reading By the Book: Writers on Literature and Literary Life from the New York Times Book Review. In it countless authors credit A Wrinkle in Time with inspiring them to write. Finally, I caved in and decided it was time to give the most hated book of my childhood another shot.
I purchased the book at the Barnes & Noble located dangerously close to my apartment. My choice was a very nice hardcover copy that also included the sequels A Wind in The Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. That night I sat down and began my second journey with A Wrinkle in Time, hoping to see what all the fuss was about. What I got was a whole lot more.
A Wrinkle in Time follows the story of Meg Murry, the daughter of two scientific geniuses and her brother Charles Wallace who, with the help of their friend Calvin, search for their missing father. It is a science fiction book full of time travel, mind reading, and magical elements. It is a children’s/young adult book with no major tragedies and (spoiler alert) a happy ending. The main characters are sympathetic and believable. Meg is one of the most realistic depictions of a “different” teenage girl that I have ever read. The villains are terrifying. It is, all in all, well-written, with a great plot, and hidden meanings that are as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1963. I agree with all of the book’s fans that is a wonderful piece of literature and that it deserves all the praise it has received through the years. After my second reading I better understand other people’s strong reactions to the book. But what I don’t understand is mine.
As soon as I finished the book, I started crying. Not just a little, but a lot. I have absolutely no idea why. The book has a nice ending. All the characters are happy. It’s a kid’s book, for God’s sake. But nevertheless, I was destroyed. I have never had an emotional reaction like this to a book. Am I allergic to A Wrinkle in Time? Obviously, something hit a nerve in me, but what?
Evidently, there is something in this book that affects me. Deeply. But I really don’t know what. I felt like I needed to talk to my father, and just barely restrained myself from waking him up at 2 AM. Maybe it plays on my childhood fear that my family will somehow be taken away from me and I’ll be left alone. Maybe its portrayal of a stubborn teenage girl who believes she is a failure hits too close to home. Maybe I’m afraid that I will never be able to show the courage that Meg did. Maybe it’s my inadequacy at math. Maybe I am simply a wimp who cannot handle the terrors of children’s science fiction. There are so many maybes. Maybe I need to understand myself better in order to understand what this book does to me. I honestly do not know.
What I do know is that I no longer hate A Wrinkle in Time. In fact, this book is now very important to me. I want to shove it into everyone I know’s hands, make them read it, and ask them if they too cried for twenty minutes straight when they finished. I now have a better understanding of how this book could be so important to so many authors in By the Book. I just wish I had an inkling, never mind a reason, of why this story is important to me and hits me so hard.
I’m glad I gave A Wrinkle in Time another go, even though it almost killed me in the process. I’m not sure I ever want to read it again – I think twice might be as much as I can take. And I am undecided as to whether or not I want to read the sequels. I own them and I am curious about what happens to Meg in the future, but I am not sure that I want to risk having another panic attack/ crying spell that I cannot stop. But what I have decided is A Wrinkle in Time is one of the best depictions of what it feels like to be “different” that I have ever read; it is one of the best depictions of being a teenage girl that I have ever read; and it is one of the best depictions of family that I have ever read. It’s an incredibly good book – but as of this moment, I would rather get root canal than read it again.
I am curious. Has anyone else ever read a book that they are “allergic” to? Please leave a comment, so I can know whether or not I’m the only one.