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    If you never commit yourself, you never express yourself, and yourself becomes less and less
    significant and decisive.  Calculating selfishness is the annihilation of self.
        -Madeleine L'Engle, Two-Part Invention, quoting Chekov?

Madeleine L'Engle, author of the beloved Newberry Award winner A Wrinkle in Time (see Orrin's review) here tells the genuinely moving story of her forty year marriage to the actor Hugh Franklin, an early star of All My Children, and of his agonizing death from cancer.  The book is at its very best describing the commitment that marriage requires of people, the commitment to one another which makes so vital an institution.  At one point she asks :

    [I]f Hugh dies first, would I ever be able to stop saying 'we' and say 'I'?  I doubt it.  I do not think
    that death can take away the fact that Hugh and I are 'we' and 'us,' a new creature born at the time
    of our marriage vows, which has grown along with us as our marriage has grown.  Even during the
    times, inevitable in all marriages, when I have felt angry, or alienated, the instinctive 'we' remains.

This kind of selfless devotion to another and to a relationship is so rare and precious in our ever more atomized culture, that to see two people who realize it so fully is really edifying.

Oddly enough, though it is probably one of the things she is best known for, I found her religious musings less effective.  Her God is entirely too much a personal God, as she seeks to justify his ways to herself.  Likewise, her comparisons of Hugh to Christ, and of his cancer to the crucifixion, seemed a little over the top to me.

Lastly, though Ms L'Engle seems like a perfectly decent woman, perhaps even an unusually decent one, her intermittent forays into political questions are disturbingly misguided.  As she tells about a trip to China during which the United States bombed Libya and she felt compelled to apologize to people she met in the street, the reader can hardly suppress a desire to see someone dope slap her.  She is after all speaking to people who live under Communist oppression, apologizing for a democracy's measured response to the provocations of another totalitarian dictatorship.

But let's set these objections aside for now, and just consider the book as a portrait of a loving marriage and of the maintenance that even a love-filled marriage requires.  Here it succeeds and is so successful that one wishes all young married couples, or prospective couples, would read it.  She does not try to sugarcoat her life or her marriage; she presents them with all their rough spots intact.  The message that comes shining through is that the life has been infinitely better because of the marriage and because that life was shared with Hugh.  In one of my favorite passages she acknowledges :

    We were not a latter-day Heloise and Abelard, Pelleas and Melisande when we married.  For one
    thing, the Heloises and Abelards, the Pelleases and Melisandes, do not get married and stay married
    for forty years.  A love which depends solely on romance, on the combustion of two attracting
    chemistries, tends to fizzle out.  The famous lovers usually end up dead.  A long term marriage has
    to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship.  It is certainly not that
    passion disappears, but that it is conjoined with other ways of love.

Of course, the culture tends to glorify the passionate whirlwind romance, rather than the steady committed marriage.  Anyone fortunate enough to share in the latter, to enjoy true love, realizes how empty is the former.


Grade: (C+)


See also:

Madeleine L'Engle (2 books reviewed)
Madeleine L'Engle Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Madeleine L'Engle
    A Sky Full of Children (Madeleine L'Engle, Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.)
-ESSAY: Grief is a distant planet: How "A Wrinkle in Time" is helping me deal with my father’s decline: From Madeleine L'Engle to Ray Bradbury, sci-fi favorites from childhood help me make sense of my sorrowful present (MEAGHAN MULHOLLAND, JUNE 17, 2023, Salon)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : Your search: madeleine l'engle
    -REVIEW : of CHRISTMAS The King James Version. Illustrated by Jan Pienkowski  (Madeleine L'Engle, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of WRITERS REVEALED By Rosemary Hartill (Madeleine L'Engle, NY Times Book Review)
    -INTERVIEW : A New Wrinkle: A Conversation with Madeleine L'Engle (
    -INTERVIEW : A Conversation With Madeleine L'Engle (Heather Webb, Mars Hill Review Winter/Spring 1996)
    -INTERVIEW : Listening to the Story (Other Side)
    -INTERVIEW : Faith During Adversity (Frugal Fun)
    -PROFILE : A Wrinkle in Faith : The unique spiritual pilgrimage of Madeleine L'Engle (Donald Hettinga, Books & Culture)
    -PROFILE : Prolific Author Weaves Spirituality Through Her Storytelling (CATHERINE SARAULT, NY Times, January 27, 1991)
    -PROFILE : Into the Depths of the Human Heart : Madeleine L'Engle's search for God (Suzanne St. Yves, Sojourners)
    -Madeleine L'Engle Collection (Wheaton College)
    -Madeleine L'Engle Teacher Resource File
    -Bonastra -- The Madeleine L'Engle WWW Resource
    -The Madeleine L'Engle Fan Homepage
    -The Tesseract: A Madeleine L'Engle Bibliography in 5 Dimensions
    -The Margaret A. Edwards Award--the L'Engle site
    -"Flying Dreams" Linda's Madeleine L'Engle Page
    -BOOK DISCSUSSION QUESTIONS : Madeleine L'Engle Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage
    -ARCHIVES : l'engle (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : l'engle (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW : of TWO-PART INVENTION The Story of a Marriage. By Madeleine L'Engle (Dan Wakefield, NY TImes Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of MANY WATERS By Madeleine L'Engle (Susan Cooper, NY Times Book Review)

    -ESSAY :  Theological Themes in Science Fiction (Anitra L. Freeman)