April's pick for the Classic Read along with the Midnight Garden was A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle. You can follow along or join in the discussion at http://www.themidnightgarden.net or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.
Zachary Grey, the troubled and reckless boy Vicky met last summer, wants her all to himself as he grieves the loss of his mother. Leo Rodney has been just a friend for years, but the tragic loss of his father causes him to turn to Vicky for comfort—and romance. And then there’s Adam Eddington. Adam is only asking Vicky to help with his research on dolphins. But Adam—and the dolphins—may just be what Vicky needs to get through this heartbreaking summer."
Pages: 352 pages
After a tumultuous year in New York City, the Austins are spending the summer on the small island where their grandfather lives. He’s very sick, and watching his condition deteriorate as the summer passes is almost more than Vicky can bear. To complicate matters, she finds herself as the center of attention for three very different boys.
Vicky is in a tough position, she has two boys who are vying for her attention, and one that she seems to have a crush on. "Adam was different from anybody I'd ever known. He wasn't spectacularly gorgeous, like Zachary, but he had a kind of light within that drew me to him like a moth to a candle." I'm not a huge fan of stories where there is this triangular relationship thing going on, but Leo, Zachary and Adam all played their roles of "good" guy, "bad" boy and "older" guy so well. Zachary almost to much. He got to a point where I really hated anytime he took Vicky out. And this line, "Don't you know you're all that's between me and chaos?" Seriously? He still gets under my skin thinking about him. I think I mostly felt for Vicky though. Her insecurity about her looks and thoughts on these three boys. This was a very difficult summer for her, one that sticks with you and shapes the kind of person you're going to be.
Vicky's grandfather's illness is a means of delving into the difficult subject of death and dying. It really illustrates the fears that Vicky faces with losing her grandfather and letting him go in a heartfelt realistic way. Even Vicky's grandfather's fears are portrayed very well. " I'm afraid-... Of what, Grandfather? "That I won't know when to let go." When he asks her to let him know when it's time, man that was so tough to read. What a responsibility to place on a young teenager who is in that stage of growing up becoming an adult and seeing their own immortality. I'm glad that he later tells her how unfair he was being.
This is only the second time that I've read one of L'Engle's books, the first being A Wrinkle in Time. Yet, her writing fascinates me and makes me read slowly to absorb everything. There's complex ideas about science, theology, poetry, religion, love, death and dying in A Ring of Endless Light. I felt like I didn't want to miss a passage, so I kept leaving scraps of paper scattered throughout the book to remind me of many of L'Engle's complex ideas. Like this one "Time is like a river for most of us, flowing in only one direction. But there's a possibility that time is less like a river than a tree, a tree with large branches from which small branches grow, and where they touch each other it might be possible to get from one branch of time to another." That line so reminds me of reading A Wrinkle in Time. If you're a fan of L'Engle's work and haven't yet read this, A Ring of Endless light can be read as a standalone.
In the Introduction L'Engle's grandchildren talk about how her stories include details from her own life. So when I read this line it had me wondering if she was talking about herself, "Even when I was a kid I read Scientific American, not fairy tales. My academic parents didn't encourage fairy tales. And I think it was my loss." Her stories are just so thought provoking and complex and I enjoy how A Ring of Endless Light was both realistic fiction as well as some science fiction too. Especially as Vicky explores her abilities to communicate with the dolphins she meets. According to L'Engle's grandchildren, she apparently "wrote and lectured extensively on the difference between truth and fact, arguing that it is through story that we human beings approach the truth, not through facts, which can only get us so far." A beautifully written story with strong messages, easy to relate to and will stick with me for sometime to come.
Favorite Line "..if we aren't capable of being hurt we aren't capable of feeling joy."