In my quest to read aloud all of my childhood favorites to my own children, this was the latest challenge. It is a challenging read in many ways, although as a child I simply enjoyed it for the adventure. I had no idea at the time how much my heart was being shaped.
Three unlikely heroes – the children Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin – are summoned to cross time and space in order to save their long-missing father. The villain is evil itself, centralized in a disembodied brain on a far-distant planet, but with shadows that threaten to engulf Earth itself. The children are the only ones capable of rescuing their father, according to the beings of light that summon them, but before they can succeed they must face the potential darkness within themselves and learn to banish it.
Though the language is simple, the lessons for the reader are deep. Love is more rare but stronger than hate. Emotions are only as bad or good as how we use them. Cold logic can be dangerous if misapplied. Confidence and arrogance are not the same thing. Character traits are neither good or bad; their nature depends upon their application. Evil disguises itself as order, safety, equality, and comfort, but truth is always discernable for those willing to look beneath the surface.
My favorite thing about this book is the contextual use of scripture and literary quotes. When Meg doubts her ability to do what is required, the reassurance given is that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things of the mighty.” When Calvin is told where to find the missing father, the hint is given in the form of a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In this very natural way the meanings of some of the deepest principles become plain to children.