A Wind in the Door

by Madeleine L'Engle

Cover image

Series: Time #2
Publisher: Dell
Copyright: 1973
Printing: September 1997
ISBN: 0-440-98761-X
Format: Mass market
Pages: 203

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The Wind in the Door is a sequel to A Wrinkle in Time, but only the characters carry over. There is no direct plot connection and plenty of reintroduction of the characters, so there's no need to worry about reading out of order.

This time, the story opens with Charles Wallace's discovery of what he believes are dragons. A somewhat plodding opening with strange experiences for Meg and a lot of internal musing finally picks up steam when Charles Wallace becomes ill, Meg meets a cherubim and a Teacher, and the quest to save Charles Wallace from dark forces begins. Unfortunately, even after the story is well underway, there's a great deal of talking, exposition, and Socratic dialogue that weighs on the action.

L'Engle has a wonderful imagination for the strange and exotic and populates her books with some memorable inhabitants. The best of this book is the cherubim, Proginoskes, who is a delightfully described bizarre and impressive sight that owes more to the Bible than to dumb baby angels. (He refers to himself as a cherubim even though that's normally the plural, considering himself a sort of singular plural.) Meg and Proginoskes work together for most of the book, communicating through a form of empathic telepathy that L'Engle dubs kything, a satisfying-sounding neologism. That and some parts of the interaction with the ultra-microscopic farandolae are the best parts of the book.

Where L'Engle founders is in letting her imagined creatures live a story rather than self-consciously telling one. There is a lot of telling rather than showing in this book, some of which is dragged out painfully by authority figures refusing to tell Meg things for extended periods until the story timing is right. L'Engle tries for vivid portrayals of how Meg feels, falling back on poetry in several places, but it never feels effortless and natural. Characters tend to have Purposes, conversations tend to have Points, the tone is very didactic, and the emotions felt a little forced.

The core of the book, the concept of Naming, is a good example. On one hand, the moral lesson that L'Engle is aiming for is satisfyingly subtle. Tackling the idea of loving one's enemies is hard enough; tackling that in the context of understanding everyone as well as possible, finding ways of letting people do the right thing even if you don't trust them, and creating expectations that others can live up to is a moral lesson a cut above what one often sees in this sort of children's book. On the other hand, Naming is belabored badly at times, repeated in ways that don't fall naturally out of the story, and has an effect that seems disproportional. It seemed like Naming became magical because it was a story element and an important lesson, rather than the other way around.

Again, not a bad story, and my difficulties with it may not bother the target audience of children (although I do wonder if the slow pace and the preachiness might cause some to lose interest). I was hoping for more, but L'Engle's bursts of imagination still make the book worth reading.

Followed by A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-02-25

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