When I went to my local movie theater to see A Wrinkle in Time, the teenaged young woman at the register said, “Oh, I loved that book! I can’t wait to see it! Let me know how it is!”
To work at our theater, you have to be 16, so that puts her a couple of years older than Storm Reid, who plays Meg Murray in the film. The film’s director, Ava Duvernay, is in her 40s, like me. The book by Madeliene L’Engle came out more than a half-century ago, in 1962. It still has pull across generations.
Why is Meg so memorable? For one thing, she was one of the first smart girls to be a hero (pre-Hermione Granger). Like Hermione, no racial background is given for Meg in the book, so it’s been easy for many smart girls to see themselves in her, making Duvernay’s choice to cast an actress of color in the role a natural decision.
But I think what sets Meg apart is not just her brain. It’s her faults.
“Meg, I give you your faults.” [Mrs. Whatsit]
“My faults!” Meg cried.
“But I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!”
“Yes,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “However, I think you’ll find they’ll come in very handy on Camazotz.”
Here is where the movie veers from the book. In the movie, Meg’s chief fault is not believing in herself. Although insecurity is certainly a common experience during the teen years, I wouldn’t label it a fault. More of a hindrance. I’m also old enough to know that believing in yourself does not always save loved ones or the world.
In the book, Meg’s greatest fault is stubbornness. She’s shown to be stubborn from the very first chapter, unwilling to go-along-to-get-along at school. As she, her brilliant brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin O’Keefe tesser across the universe in search of her father, Meg’s stubbornness is allowed to fully blossom. Someone less stubborn would have given up, would’ve settled for saving herself. I want to gift Meg a Nevertheless, she persisted T-shirt.
The other concept that’s slightly different from the book to the movie is love. In both, love is the greatest power in the universe. But in the book it’s not love for yourself — it’s knowing you are loved. When the IT-controlled Charles Wallace lies to Meg, saying, “Mrs. Whatsit hates you,” Meg counters with this:
“Mrs. Whatsit loves me; that’s what she told me, that she loves me,” suddenly she knew.
That was what she had that IT did not have.
She could love Charles Wallace.
Tell me this story isn’t as contemporary as ever.
Have you ever loved someone who changed? A beloved Charles Wallace who suddenly was as un-Charles Wallace-like as a person could be? Where did that boy go? Who did that girl become? How do you continue to love someone who blocks you on every social media platform and in real life?
If you’ve faced such questions, then you’ve lived in Meg’s shoes.
When I read the book, at about age 10, I hadn’t experienced anything quite like this. But it was one of those books I read at the exact right time for it to tesser into my soul. It has done the same for a lot of girls. Probably even for the young woman who sold me my ticket.
When the movie ended, I looked for her, tried to catch her eye (unsuccessfully), to tell her all about it. I wondered how old she was when she read the book. I wanted to ask her if it was one of those books in her life too.
The next Children’s Book Club will meet Friday, May 11. We’ll read Newbery-winner The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo.
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro