Madeleine L & # 39; Engle – The second of tenderness – tales

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Life after paradox

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Moments of tenderness: stories
Madeleine L’Engle

Hardcover: Grand Central Publishing, 2020
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Reviewed by Tammy Perlmutter

Liar, coward, savior and lover. Characters you can recognize in the pit of the stomach and others you will hopefully never meet. The moment of tenderness introduces us to a series of memorable saints and sinners that remind us that humanity is incredibly flawed but worthy of salvation. The Saints are faithful caretakers and long-suffering players who are painfully authentic and painfully familiar. The sinners are jealous, combative, haughty and presumptuous; nevertheless given every opportunity to redeem themselves and their decisions.

The granddaughter of Madeleine L’Engle, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, author of the biography Become a madeleinebrought us a new collection of old stories. Papers and unpublished manuscripts were collected from 3 different houses where their writings were kept. Much of the content of the stories is almost uncomfortably autobiographical and shows Madeleine's loneliness, fear of separation and sadness at certain stages in her life as a boarding school teenager, her young adolescence in Greenwich Village and her early years as a mother and published author. They see insights into their novels, but this collection gives us a unique insight into L’Engle's personal life and brings them closer, making them more relatable and human.

The first five stories begin with "The birthday" about a child on the eve of the age of eight. We meet the young protagonist Cecily Carey cold and shivering in her bedroom window when she experiences her first identity crisis. She expresses herself in a stream of consciousness, her thoughts fall out of her in a rapid fire sequence and question her being and her existence. ". . because the world had suddenly changed and it was no longer hers and she didn't know who it belonged to. "She feels small and scared. When the story ends, she cries for her mother from her bed, but when no one answers, she tells the truth about who she is and how she is loved and how she belongs. She stands up with courage and confidence and takes care of itself It is a brilliant start for the collection as it prepares us for a narrative journey through universal experiences of personal growth and hard-won maturity.

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L’Engle continues her theme of growing up with children who take traumas from their parents, bullied in boarding school and are humiliated and rejected in the summer camp. The characters grow older until "While the long road is in the moon" ends and a young woman is about to go to college, desperately trying to escape her suffocating southern city. The people who inhabit these stories are lonely and naive and yearn for connection, for something more, something different. They are also robust and resilient. Don't be afraid of the rawness of her feelings, reminiscent of Madeleine's most popular heroines like Meg Murray A fold in time but most of all like Madeleine herself.

Collisions with loneliness continue with conflicts between mother and daughter, between sisters, neighbors and friends. Everyone desperately wants to go their own way and build a life while trying to at least maintain, if not become stronger, more independent ones. L’Engle continues the inner dispute with stories about romantic and professional jealousy, a murderous daughter-in-law who finds place and belonging. In "The Foreigners" a young couple, new to a small town in New England, causes a stir with its bourgeois opinions and general snobbiness. But after a public breakdown and a house fire, they are unexpectedly incorporated into the community. It ends with a profound and insightful quote that sums up the entire collection. ". . Perhaps we never feel like anything else than newcomers in this tight little community. But where, after making the big decision to leave childhood safety and move on to maturity, does anyone ever feel completely at home? "

For readers who are die-hard fans of the Wrinkle Quartet, it offers two outstanding stories, a fantasy and a science fiction story. In Poor Little Saturday, a malaria-weakened and isolated teenage boy explores a haunted house that has been empty since the Civil War. He meets a girl who he suspects is a ghost. She realizes that he is bad and takes him to meet "her", a tall, timeless, extraordinary woman with a deer in her lap and a leopard at her feet. She creates a mixture of peacock hearts and a pinch of stardust for his malaria and heals him. He will soon be accepted into her secret, strange cohort.

The finale of the collection is “A sign for a sparrow”, which is reminiscent of the classic science fiction paperbacks of the 1950s and 1960s. The earth is plagued by radioactivity, human sacrifices and birth defects. Only two out of five children survive their first years. The culture seems to be a mixture of futuristic science and old religion. The horizon glows green. Churches are closed and transformed into state kindergartens for the growing population of deformed children. The main character Rob is a godly Christian, a minority among the dark cults and idolaters.

"The scientists were responsible for the war and because three fifths of the earth's surface will not be habitable for at least another hundred years. And the men of God were to blame because they – and their God – had done nothing to stop it. But the scientists are in grace again, because without them we would be back in the caves and the men of God are still out of favor because only a handful of people recognize in every way that we are back in the caves. "

This collection is Madeleine at its best, robust and funny, which makes sense from loss. While distilling philosophical and theological concepts so that they don't rattle in our heads, elusive and confusing, with her keen perception of humanity she plants eternal truths in our hearts. its disappointing shortcomings and ragged victories. But she never leaves it there. L’Engle has the gift of preparing us for despair as she comes in hopefully, while she and her characters show us how we can "live by paradox, contradiction and surprise".

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Tammy mother of pearl

Tammy mother of pearl is the founder and curator of The Mudroom (mudroomblog.com), a collaborative blog that encourages women to tell the truth, love hard and get in touch, and co-founded Deeply Rooted, an annual worship and creativity Meeting for women. Tammy is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and lives in Chicago.

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