Every now and then I check to see if a Madeleine L’Engle biography is in the works. It was a blow, when L’Engle died in 2007, to feel that my connection to both her fictional characters and her real family had ended .
Writer Cynthia Zarin once remembered a friend telling her that there were only two types of girls: “Those who read Madeleine L’Engle when they were small, and those who didn’t.”
For the former (and surely the scale is weighted toward them), the world of Meg Murry and Charles Wallace – the young protagonists in the classic “A Wrinkle In Time” – felt so so very close-to-real. And that's not to mention other characters who inhabited the same universe, starring in their own L’Engle books and crossing over into others. As adults, we learned about L’Engle’s own life, family, and marriage through her “Crosswicks Journal” series, including “Two-Part Invention.”
So why the need for a biography?
Zarin’s 2004 profile of L’Engle in the New Yorker left fans unmoored, revealing that the writer’s family “habitually refer to all her memoirs as 'pure fiction,' and, conversely, consider her novels to be the most autobiographical – though to them equally invasive – of her books.” I like to think a thorough biography would help readers draw a clearer line between fiction and history, fill in blanks in the life of a talented, major figure…. and, yes, give us a few more of her much-missed words.
Roy’s book isn’t a continuation of L’Engle’s world; it’s inspired by Roy’s work with teens in Moab, Utah, “a story of love and grief, addiction and redemption.” Reviews on the author’s site show praise from School Library Journal and Booklist, and early reviewers on Goodreads say it stuck with them, with characters “so true they make your heart hurt.” The author’s bio doesn’t mention the L’Engle link, although Roy, a mother of three, does talk freely and generously about her grandmother on her blog.
Kinship doesn’t mean similarity; it’s unfair to expect a writer to inherit talent or soul. Yet I find myself looking forward to “Edges,” with great pleasure. It sounds like the sort of book I want to read. And that, though not precisely in that form, is just what I had been hoping for when I returned to L’Engle’s page.
Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com.