I reread A Wrinkle in Time once every few years. Sometimes, I reach for it every year. There are times in my life that I need its refuge more than others.
When I first read it, I was 12 years old. I’d never met my father, and my mother spent most of her time locked behind her bedroom door with a bottle in hand. Alone in my room, I read voraciously. Fantasy was my mainstay. Before I discovered A Wrinkle In Time, dogeared copies of The Last Unicorn and The Neverending Story lived next to my bed. I was in need of a magical world, a place where lost people could become found.
Meg Murry was the kind of protagonist I desperately needed to meet, although I didn’t know it. I had unruly hair the mousiest shade of brown, glasses with thick lenses, and a body shaped like a barrel; all bulging lines. When I looked around me, I saw glamour everywhere: on MTV, on the cover of Seventeen, in the precisely drawn angles of my mother’s lipliner. I already felt bad when I looked in the mirror, even though I didn’t understand why yet.
Meg wasn’t glamorous either. But she was smart and brave and determined. She had a father-shaped hole, just like me. And so I loved her.
There’s so much vulnerability in the people that live in these pages. Meg’s mother fears her husband will never come back. Charles Wallace is too otherworldly to fit in. Even Mrs. Whatsit, Who and Which are both powerful and bumbling. Etched into each character, I saw a promise that being different was okay, and feeling alone wouldn’t last forever. And perhaps there were others like me, if I only dared to look.
I had no others like me when I met Meg, Charles and Calvin, which is perhaps why I lost myself in this story time and time again. I spent long hours thinking about the tesseract, and whether or not space and time could truly fold (I still believe it can). Each time I read the book, I don’t think of it as fiction. To this day, when I reread it, I imagine it happening somewhere in the universe.
Even though Camazotz frightened me, I was willing to follow my friends into its darkness. If my own father had been there, at least I’d have known where he was, that there was something I could do. But I didn’t know. So I tucked myself into the stardust as Meg, Charles and Calvin tessered from one galaxy to the next. I sought their friendship, their company.
If the Black Thing is the cold darkness of the story, Aunt Beast is the anchor of warmth. Near the end, she tells Meg, “Good helps us, the stars help us, perhaps what you would call light helps us, love helps us.” At first, I didn’t understand what she meant. Even so, I sensed they were important words, so I wrote them down in my diary. As I grew older, I started to understand. These words went far beyond the book in my hands, weaving their tremendous power through every life. Especially mine.
When I had no way to find my dad, I cheered for Meg as she chased hers. I felt her anger and her frustration, her impatience and her sorrow. I felt his absence with her, because her father was a small part of mine, as all fathers are a part of each other.
My search for my own father hasn’t ended yet. If that pilgrimage had started when I was an adult, I might have given up by now. Meg taught me not to. Kids imagine solutions to their problems in ways adults could never dream of, and so I imagine my journey as a child does. Maybe I’ll shoot across space and find him waiting in the next galaxy. Maybe he can sense me, the same way I have always sensed him. Maybe I’ll dare to reach out, and find I’m already holding his hand.
Colette Bennett is a journalist with ten years of experience in storytelling and a particular passion for fantastical worlds. She has published at a wide variety of web outlets, including CNN, HLN, The Daily Dot, Colourlovers, Engadget, Kotaku and Joystiq. Her work has also been featured in Norwegian print magazine AftenPolten Innsikt. She’s currently at work on her first novel.