Not Really One Thing Or the Other {Book Club}

My high school best friend always had a stack of teen magazines. She would pick up Bop, Seventeen, YM, or Teen People at the Wal-Mart checkout, choosing according to who was running a cover story on N*SYNC. After flipping through to pull out posters of celebrities, we set out to find any and all quizzes in the magazine. Which Spice Girl are you? I didn’t listen to the Spice Girls, but I definitely had to know where I fit in with them. Of course nowadays, those quizzes are online. Whether via paper or BuzzFeed, the quizzes fill the same craving in us: to know that we fit somewhere, somehow because there is someone like us who is fitting in.

Teen years are when we start trying to find our place in this world. Where do we belong? What is our role? And that’s where we meet Meg, the main character of this month’s book, A Wrinkle in Time. She feels she fits neither with her family nor with her peers at school. Her baby brother Charles Wallace describes her as, “not really one thing or the other.” What do you think he meant by that?

I thought of us when I read that line. My culture and values are no longer like most Americans’. I don’t fit there like I used to. But I’m not Kenyan, either. I stick out like a sore thumb here, both physically and culturally. Neither this nor that.

The story opens in the home of the Murry family. Mr. and Mrs. Murry are brilliant scientists. She’s a biologist; he’s a physicist. Before the first page of the book, he was involved in some work for the US government and went missing.

Meg is the eldest child, who has just started high school. She is emotional, impatient, and opinionated. Charles Wallace is a precocious 5-year old prodigy who seems to be telepathic. Sandy and Dennys are 10-year old twins, average students and athletic. Calvin O’Keefe is a friend Meg and Charles Wallace meet on the day the adventure begins. It’s one of those friendships that just “clicks.”

The first 3 chapters introduce us, one-by-one, to the 3 Mrs. W’s. Each one digs us a little deeper into the plot, but also leaves us with questions. Don’t worry, though. They will all be answered in time.

Mrs. Whatsit appears to be an eccentric old woman. After an awkward first encounter, she drops a bomb in a seemingly off-handed comment to Mrs Murry, “Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.” It is late at night, and Mrs. Murry won’t tell the kids what it means yet.

Next we meet Mrs. Who, making ghosts out of bed sheets, just in case they need to scare anyone away from the haunted house. She speaks mostly in quotes because she’s not good at expressing thoughts in her own words. We get a hint of adventure to come when she tells the children that it’s almost time to help Mr. Murry.

Mrs. Which is usually seen as a shimmer of light. She says that she has a hard time materializing. Her speech is ddrraawwnn oouttt. I “hear” it ringing like a bell or echoing. The Mrs. W’s aren’t human. What are they?We leave the Mrs. W’s, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin on the planet Uriel at the end of this section. Mrs Whatsit explains how they got there, “We don’t travel at the speed of anything…We tesser. Or you might say, we wrinkle.” There is, however, no time to go into an explanation because Mrs. Which instructs her to show the children something.

One of the most beautiful passages happens on the way. They see creatures flying around, singing, and Mrs. Whatsit interprets the song with help from Charles Wallace. It is from Isaiah 42:10-12. It fills the children with pure joy and bolsters them for their first sight of The Black Thing. They see a shadow out in space, blocking out a section of stars. Calvin intuits that it’s evil, and that’s the only description we’re going to get for now. There’s an important point tucked into this experience. Praising the Father, recognizing his rightful place in the universe, gives us strength even in the face of evil.

There are so many great quotes in here. I love Mrs. Who’s quoting of philosophers and the wisdom of Mrs Murry. What stands out to you? What do you think of the Mrs. W’s and The Black Thing? Did you see either of the movies (the 2003 version https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290382/?ref_=nv_sr_2 or the 2018 version https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1620680/?ref_=nv_sr_1) based on this book?

P.S. Next week, we’ll discuss chapters 5-8. Here’s the reading schedule:

February 12: Chapters 5-8

February 19: Chapters 9-12

February 26: We’ll preview our spring book!

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

21 Comments

  1. Michelle Kiprop February 5, 2019

    I have to confess that as much as I do love literature, I’ve never read this book before, OR seen either movie about it! But I’ll probably look for one after I finish reading. And I’m thankful that it’s a quick and easy read. I’ve been wanting to hop back on the book-club bandwagon but have been drowning in work and life lately. So this is a fun and easy one to squeeze in. I love your comments Rachel about not really being one thing or the other. So very true about our lives in the international realm. Even if you have your small community who knows you, you are quickly identified as a stranger/visitor/foreigner/mzungu when you leave that circle. I think we all seek to be “normal” in some way. To know that we are not the only one.. Thankful for the VA community who works so hard to help us globe wanderers find that fit and place of understanding!

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 5, 2019

      Glad you’re joining us this time, Michelle! Your comment makes me think of Calvin, as much a misfit as Meg and Charles, but acts like he’s not so that he blends in. And how much he felt like he was going home for the first time when he went to the Murry’s house, where he would be able to be himself! The VA community is kind of like the Murry’s house in that way. 🙂

    2. Amy Young February 6, 2019

      Michelle, your comment on being thankful this is a quick and easy (yet rich) read made me smile. Yesterday a woman I know commented on “Hope Was Here” (the book we read last July) saying it was so for young people. Duh :)! Because it was / is YA! But if a book is well-written, I don’t care if it is YA or for an older audience 🙂

      1. Karen February 6, 2019

        I love YA books! And I’m definitely middle-aged. I find so much depth and intentionality in the writing of YA novels, and they’re so nice for picking up when I want to relax before bed. So thankful to have worked with many homeschooling families and their personal libraries!

        1. Shelly February 10, 2019

          I agree!

  2. Kristi February 5, 2019

    I’m also grateful for the motivation to read this book! I know I read it as a child, but did not remember anything, so am thouroughly enjoying it! I love the 3 ‘Mrs. W’s and their peculiar characteristics, and the intuitive knowing or ability to ‘hear’ that Charles Wallace has. And you are right–lots of meaningful quotes. One of my favorites is, “Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.”

    Thank you, Rachel, for highlighting the point that recognizing God’s rightful place and praising Him can give us strength even in the face of evil (or suffering). So true! Sometimes when events around me seem so hopeless, it is amazing how worship or prayer or refocusing on God can give me hope and the motivation to keep going. I’m sure that Meg is going to need plenty of that in this journey!

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 5, 2019

      Yes! I love that quote, too!

      That’s true about suffering and motivation. Focusing on God certainly changes things. Not the circumstances, but my perception.

    2. Paulette Cross February 8, 2019

      Another quote I loved, somewhat along the lines of the one you mentioned, Kristi, is this one, from Meg’s mother.

      “Don’t hope it was a dream. I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to BE.”

      We can certainly never understand our infinite Heavenly Father, or His mysterious ways, yet we can know Him personally, for He is and He lives. And just as you remind us, when our eyes are focused on Him, He gives us the hope and motivation to keep going.

  3. Kara Hallead February 5, 2019

    I JUST read this for the first time in January and devoured it. Sadly, it’s back at the library, so I can’t pull out my favorite quotes, but I’m excited to follow along. I’m nervous to watch any of the movies, since L’engle’s writing painted such specific images in my mind.

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 5, 2019

      L’Engle was still alive when the 2003 movie came out, and she hated it. It was a Disney channel, made for TV movie. Or maybe actually a miniseries. I didn’t see that one. I did catch the other one – I thought it was released last year, but it must have been 2017 because I watched it on a plane, and I didn’t fly anywhere last year. I liked the visualization, but the Mrs W’s are far more glamorous, which took away some of the charm. I hated that the biblical references and truths were replaced with “believe in yourself” nonsense. I probably would have liked it as an original movie, but as a movie based on the book, I was disappointed.

  4. Karen February 5, 2019

    I read this book a couple of years ago, but it’s one of those books I could read a bunch of times and continue to find quotes that make me think. It does a good job of pointing out the hugeness of the universe and the fact that there are many things we can’t understand, and yet that it’s OK to be the small creatures that we are. I agree with Kara that I’d be nervous to see the movies … I like that fantasy intends for us to imagine the story.

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 5, 2019

      I have lost count of how many times I’ve read this book! I find significance in it every time!

  5. Sarah Hilkemann February 6, 2019

    I read a Wrinkle in Time for the first time last November and loved it! It was also my first introduction to L’Engle. I think I identify more with Calvin, like you said in another comment, Rachel, how he doesn’t really fit but really tries hard to. I love Meg though and would love to have her tenacity. 🙂 I watched the newest movie version on a plane just after reading the book last fall. I definitely loved the book more (as usual), but thought the portrayal of the 3 Mrs. Ws was interesting! For some reason I had a hard time picturing them while reading the book.

    1. Amy Young February 6, 2019

      Sarah, it’s been ages since I read this (um, as in scores — plural! Ha!!). And in truth, I think it was my mom who read it out loud in the summertime to my sisters and me after our swim lesson. So, with yet another snow storm outside my window, I’m wishing it were summer and a lazy warm day with my sisters and our mom reading out loud to us :).

    2. Rachel Kahindi February 8, 2019

      I always wanted to learn to fit in more like Calvin, and I was shocked in my late teens to realize that everyone who seemed to fit in was faking it.

  6. Paulette February 8, 2019

    Wow, lots of questions were raised in these first few chapters! I’m really looking forward to finding out the answers along with Meg, whose uncertainty, impatience, and mistrust of what she doesn’t understand are so easy to relate to.

    One of several quotes that really stood out was this one from Mrs. Which (extra letters removed!)

    “And we mustn’t lose our senses of humor. The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.”

    Isn’t this fantastic advice for serving overseas? We face cultural differences, trying to fit in when we are neither “one thing or the other” nor “this or that”, major unexpected transitions, loving people when their definition of friendship isn’t the same as ours, losing touch with our passport cultures, stepping into darkness and suffering, fighting against spiritual wickedness, etc, etc. It can be everything from frustrating to rough to overwhelming to deadly serious.

    And while a sense of humor may not change the circumstances, it sure is a wonderful coping mechanism and gift from God. A merry heart does good like a medicine, right? And no side effects! This week, my sense of humor (which may be slightly on the ridiculous side…) took the form of a parody of Frozen’s most famous song. While I rewrote the lyrics for an entire verse, the title alone expounds my new rainy season coping philosophy on mold, “Let it Grow!”

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 8, 2019

      A ridiculous sense of humor is a good thing to have! Ha! I would love to hear your mold song. It’s dry here, and I’m going to need a song about the fine layer of dust that coats everything in my house. 😉

    2. Shelly February 10, 2019

      Oh, I can just imagine after living in a very humid, mold-growing region for a while. Maybe you can share it with us. 🙂

      1. Paulette February 15, 2019

        Sorry for such a delayed reply, Rachel and Shelly. I didn’t see your comments until coming back to check out the book club discussion for this week. But here’s the mold song…chorus first because I wrote it first, haha, and that part of the melody is catchier and easier to sing. Hope it makes you laugh, or perhaps feel less stressed about how clean (or not) your home currently is! 🙂

        Let it grow, let it grow.
        You can’t clean your house fast enough.
        Let it grow, let it grow,
        ‘Til there’s mold on all your stuff.
        It will disappear
        When dry season comes,
        Let it grow, let it grow,
        Smelly mold never bothered me anyway.

        The mold grows white in the jungle tonight
        Though I wish it were unseen
        In this home of joy and language learning
        Where it looks like no one cleans
        The rain is pouring like these tears of overwhelmed
        Couldn’t do it all, heaven knows I’ve tried
        But let friends in and let friends see
        Their lives and language matter more to me
        Be real, and feel, shine Jesus’ light
        You’re here to love.

  7. Karen February 8, 2019

    I love it!

    1. Karen February 8, 2019

      Sorry, all, I meant my last reply as a reply to Paulette’s mold song but replied in the wrong spot … I so identify! I don’t think of these funny things but am so thankful for co-workers and co-workers kids who do!

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