One Day You Will by Caroline Starr Rose
Each Friday in my fifth-grade class, we were required to turn in a book report and recite a newly memorized poem. No kidding. (In my teaching days, when students told me the amount of reading I asked of them was far too hard [thirty minutes a night, if you’re curious], I’d tell them about Mrs. Chavez’s requirements. It was enough for them to realize what I expected wasn’t so crazy after all.)
I loved the recitation and reports. I was one of those kids who read several books a week and got extra credit for those that went above and beyond the requirements. But then I picked up a book called A WRINKLE IN TIME. For some reason the week got away from me, and by Thursday afternoon I had a lot of work to do. I spent most of the day with a book I found weird and confusing. It kind of gave me the creeps (though I can’t remember why). I finished it and wrote my report, having no need to ever continue with the series.
So it’s always struck me as odd how many people adore this book. As a reader and certainly as an author I understand the universal truth that no book is for everyone. But when there’s a title so many enjoy — specifically so many authors — and I don’t feel the same way, it puzzles me.*
Then a few things happened:
- I read Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME, in many ways a tribute to WRINKLE.**
- The fiftieth anniversary edition was released in 2012.
- My critique partner told me it was a favorite childhood book.
- My running partner shared how special it was to her as a girl.
- Three different people recommended Madeleine L’Engle’s book on writing, WALKING ON WATER. And halfway through, I was ready to try WRINKLE again.
I picked up a Playaway version from the library and listened in while cleaning, on my solo morning runs, while waiting in the carpool line. Outside of Calvin’s occasional slang, not much else felt dated. Meg read like the kind of character I would have latched onto as a girl (not sure what was happening that Thursday back in 1985). The mystery that builds before Calvin, Meg, and Charles Wallace go to search for Mr. Murray really captured my attention. I wanted to break into song each time I heard about the planet Camazotz (because doesn’t it sound like King Arthur’s celestial home?). I loved that Meg realized that finding her father wasn’t the end of her problems, that he didn’t hold all the answers she needed, that she was the only one who could later rescue Charles Wallace, and that her love was the one advantage she had over the evil It. I appreciated it was a given that the Universe is God’s, that no matter what kind of creature lived on what kind of planet, this was a known thing.
But there were still things that didn’t fully work for me. The early portions where the children travel through space with Mrs. Whatsit I found rather dull. While I still couldn’t put my finger on the specifics, I sensed how portions of the story might have creeped out my sensitive eleven-year-old self. And when the children discover that Camazotz’s evil force is actually a overgrown, pulsing brain, I laughed out loud. This particular had escaped my memory. It felt like a creature out of the original Star Trek series, which dated the moment for me.
And yet. I’m so, so happy I gave this book a second chance. I can now join in conversations with a fuller understanding and a new appreciation. I feel like I’ve restored a small portion of my childhood. Re-reading felt like whispering to my younger self, “It’s okay if you don’t like it now. One day you will. And that will make all the difference.”
*I think it’s also fair for me to add here that as an author, I have chosen to keep mum publicly when it comes to books I don’t enjoy (with the exception being this book!). Many authors feel differently than I do, and I respect that. I’m happy to talk books that don’t work for me between friends, but putting that information out publicly doesn’t feel right. The more I read and write, the more I realize I am one small voice and one small talent. Scads and scads and scads of people have a better handle on this writing thing than I do. I recognize this in books I enjoy and in books I don’t. As for those books I’m not crazy about, it’s okay. Because they weren’t written for me. Their audience exists elsewhere.
**Rebecca had this to say about the book:
“I loved A WRINKLE IN TIME as a child. I didn’t know why I loved it, and I didn’t want to know why. I remember meeting Madeleine L’Engle once at a bookstore and just staring at her as if she were a magical person. What I love about L’Engle’s book now is how it deals with so much fragile inner-human stuff at the same time that it takes on life’s big questions. There’s something fearless about this book.”
Caroline Starr Rose is the author of MAY B. (2012) and forthcoming OVER IN THE WETLANDS (2015). She also is a former upper elementary and middle school teacher. You can find her on the internet at http://www.carolinestarrrose.com.