Have you ever read a book where the author says, “It took a village to get this published” and then thanks a zillion people? I’ve done that as well, because it’s so true. You just can’t write a book in a void. Well, ok you can, but then no one but you and the cat are ever going to read it, and that’s exactly zero fun.
So, when we talk about a “village” we usually mean people, like moms and spouses and editors and besties. But one thing writers often forget to attribute—or at least I know I do—are amazing books that we’ve read, completely loved, and that always influence us silently and quietly even when we don’t consciously think about them. Most people have at least one of these in their lives: a great read you devoured, then read a few more times, then recommended to others because it was so incredibly good.
One of the most special books that fits this category for me is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Published way back in 1962, this title might not be too familiar (or maybe it is, since the movie came out in 2018—haven’t seen it) but it should be because the book rocks some basic, awesome, and fundamentally human ideals really hard. No wonder I like to write about girls with grit who live inside a supernatural storyline twist.
Meg Murray, teen protagonist, runs the show here, and she’s everything high schoolers fear—awkward, alone, sad, and brilliantly weird. Meg lives with her also-brilliant and beautiful scientist mother, little brother, Charles Wallace (the family genius at only 5) and twins, Sandy and Dennys. No spoilers here so let’s just say that Meg and Charles Wallace end up on a late-night and multi-universe adventure (with Cute Boy From School, Calvin) to find their scientist-dad who has gone missing while in the midst of secret government work.
I love Meg. She’s everything I was but did not want to be, but made it ok somehow. From her completely hopeless frizzy hair (check), awkwardness around Calvin (oh yeah, check), absolute pain and sorrow at her missing dad (though in a slightly different way, but still, yup, check), all the way to her fierce strength and stunning tenacity, she was a girl I could hold on to, someone who would be nice to you at lunch if you were the new kid at school.
Remember, this was crafted in 1962, so no cell phones, Insta, social media of any kind. People lived life, moved on, liked it or didn’t. No commentary shouted out to the world. No blogs, influencers, or trendsetters in the way we know them today. Discomfort, awkwardness, fear, sadness…these belonged (as they always do) to you, and were yours to share (maybe) with friends and family (if that’s how your family dynamic rolled), but not blasted out for the world to see and consume.
Meg negotiated her father’s disappearance with grace and sadness, until the time came when she thought I can do something here, and then did it. This is exactly what I needed as a girl, someone like me—nerdy, frizzy-haired, weird—who made choices, fell hard but always floated to the top, and succeeded where others, less strong, would fail. Meg Murray was my model, my friend, an unknown support I didn’t even realize was there until I too had to sink or swim in the face of tragedy and pain.
I’m admittedly afraid to see the movie because…what if Meg isn’t the same hero of my childhood, the one whose awkwardness propped me up and pulled me through? Nobody wants to negotiate that kind of disappointment. But then I think, wait, the Meg who taught me courage wouldn’t be scared to see a movie. She’d go, take what she wanted and needed, and leave the rest. Right.
Good advice, Meg.