Ally’s #33: A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

Mitochondria, farandolae, echthroi, cherubim, and kything. If you know what one of those words means, give yourself a pat on the back. If you know what all five mean, you’ve either read this book, or you are a genius and shouldn’t be wasting your time reading my review. Go cure cancer or something.

While L’Engle’s last book, A Wrinkle in Time, felt like a children’s story with an interesting scientific spin, A Wind in the Door felt more sophisticated both scientifically and theologically. In fact, the author intertwines the two; the forces of evil in her story (echthroi = Greek for enemy) seek to convince all elements of creation, large and small, significant and seemingly insignificant, that you find the most freedom and joy in destructive self-centeredness.

The temptation for farandola or for man or for star is to stay an immature pleasure-seaker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. A fara or a man or a star has his place in the universe, but nothing created is at the center.

Another tactic of the echthroi is to take any one of the objects or persons in creation and to drive them into nothingness by un-naming them–which is effectively stripping them of their uniqueness and significance in creation.

An Echthros can be as large as a galaxy and as small as a farandola. Or, as you have seen, a replica of yourself. They are the power of nothingness, those who would un-Name. Their aim is total X–to extinguish all creation.

Once again, Meg Murray finds herself at the center of a rescue mission. In the first book, she, Charles Wallace, and Calvin were sent to rescue her father from a distant universe via time-bending. This time, Meg, Calvin, the loathsome school principal, Mr. Jenkins, and a multi-eyed, multi-winged cherubim named Proginoskes are sent to save Charles Wallace. He becomes deathly in when the (fictional) farandolae of his mitochondria refuse to function as they should, effectively killing him as they slowly deprive him of oxygen.

The story gets really bizarre when the rescue team is inside Charles Wallace, so small that they would be undetectable even by the strongest microscope and unable to see or communicate with one another verbally. For several pages, we see them struggle to kythe (communicate telepathically) and fight a battle of sorts while being severely handicapped with these limitations.

The author does a good job of foreshadowing in this story, setting the reader up for the weight of responsibility the members of the Murray family will carry into future stories. In fact, the statements sounded downright prophetic. I’m eager to read the rest of L’Engle’s books and to see how the stories mature as the characters age. That little Charles Wallace is the most intriguing, considering that he could probably attend Harvard at the age of six!

I close with some final, fun quotes:

It is only when we are fully rooted that we are really able to move.

Communication implies sound. Communion doesn’t.

War and hate are [the Echthroi's] business and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming–making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate. That’s why we still need Namers…. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.

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3 Comments

  • August 7, 2012 - 7:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing! I’m thinking about choosing a L’Engle book for my book club in September. Would this one work as a stand-alone at all or do you really need to read the first one? It’s been so many years since I’ve read them I don’t remember at all.

  • Ally
    August 7, 2012 - 9:05 am | Permalink

    Hey Martha,

    I’m not sure that I would recommend this one as a stand alone. I think the geniusness of the family would startle the reader without some backstory. It would be doable, but I think the meaning for book #2 is fuller after one reads book #1.

  • August 7, 2012 - 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Cool, thanks!

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