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****The Summer of the Great-Grandmother

The Crosswicks Journals, Book 2

by Madeleine L'Engle

Reviewed June 19, 2005.
Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984.  First published in 1974.  245 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#2, Musings)

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother comes after A Circle of Quiet in the trilogy of meditative books Madeleine L’Engle wrote at her summer home at Crosswicks.

In this book, she writes of the summer when her mother was with them, surrounded by family, but not recognizing anyone and getting ready to die.  She talks about this experience and uses it to meditate about family and history and tradition and the strange twists of fate and the hand of God.

This book didn’t relate to my life as much as her struggles as a writer which she related in A Circle of Quiet.  However, Madeleine L’Engle’s musings always speak to me and I still have a couple of passages underlined.

She does, inevitably, talk about writing:  “Lots of people, ages varying from fifteenish to seventyish, talk to me about the books they could write, if only . . .  The reason they don’t ever get around to writing the books is usually, in the young, that they have to wait for inspiration, and you know perfectly well that if an artist of any kind sits around waiting for inspiration he’ll have a very small body of work.  Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.  With people around my age the excuse is usually that they don’t have time, and you know perfectly well that if a writer waited until there was time, nothing would ever get written.”

She also talks once again about God and the meaning of life.  “What do I believe, this summer, about death and the human being?  I’m not sure.  But I know that it is in the language of the fugue, not the language of intellectual certainty.  And I know that I could not survive this summer if I could not hope for meaning, meaning to my mother’s life, to Hugh’s and mine, to our children’s, to all the larger family, to everybody, to all things, including the rock at the brook and the small frog.  What that ultimate meaning may be I do not know, because I am finite, and the meaning I hope for is not.  But God, if he is God, if he is worth believing in, is a loving God who will not abandon or forget the smallest atom of his creation.  And that includes my mother.  And everybody, everybody without exception.”


Reviews of other books by Madeleine L'Engle:
A Circle of Quiet:  The Crosswicks Journals, Book 1
The Irrational Season:  The Crosswicks Journals, Book 3
Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life, with Carole F. Chase
Glimpses of Grace, with Carole F. Chase
Walking on Water
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time audiobook
The Joys of Love

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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