I really wanted to love this book. I’m a big fan of Madeleine L’Engle’s for … well, since I became a reader, so nearly 40 years. I love her Austin family (Chronos books) more than the Kairos books. although I wouldn’t turn either down. I am a big fan of her non-fiction and memoir. I have long been a proponent of reading her non-fiction to see her faith more clearly; although it is included in her fiction as well.
This book delves into her faith in lovely ways, although I was dissatisfied with her discussion of the attacks on L’Engle’s supposed universalism. I felt the book more confirmed than denied it and didn’t really deal with the heart of the matter. More dust under the rug.
In many ways I appreciated the way she drew in L’Engles influence on writers, yet sometimes I was annoyed that Arthur talked too personally and constantly about herself with a side-note of L’Engle’s interaction. As a biography I didn’t expect that. The chapter where she spends pages comparing L’Engle and C.S. Lewis was a little jarring to me. While there are similarities, it seemed somewhat out of place as a spiritual biography, especially as it seems they never met.
Arthur really emphasized the Time Quintet without delving into other series nearly as much and I thought she did an injustice to A Ring of Endless Light in many ways – especially in the chapter about Bearing Light, because that’s the culmination of that whole book.
I also found the writing redundant from time to time. It seemed that the title of the book was repeated every chapter, and I started to feel the repetition as an annoyance rather than reassurance. Repeated assertion is not proof, and I thought several instances were more repeated assertion than true evidence of the author’s proposition.
All those complaints said, there are some truly lovely passages in the book; glimpses of a talented writer shining forth. Also, L’Engle’s friendship with Luci Shaw and their influence on one another is beautifully drawn. It is fascinating to see the wide range that L’Engle worked in, the effects of her writing on her family, and the effects on the Christian writing and artistry worlds beyond.
I recommend this with reservations. If you are looking for answers about L’Engle’s more controversial positions, I don’t think you’ll find them here and might come out more convinced of her error. If you’re looking for a glimpse of a very real, flawed Christian life you’ll find it to some extent, but it may take some digging. If you’re looking for the influence of one writer on many, that is here. As Arthur insists, we often find what we seek out. I was seeking a spiritual biography and it’s influence and perhaps was seeking the wrong thing.