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Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time has captured the imagination of millions - from literary sensation to timeless classic and now a major motion picture starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Storm Reid, and Mindy Kaling. A Light So Lovely tells the story of the woman at the center of it all - her imagination, her faith, her pattern of defying categories, and what r Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time has captured the imagination of millions - from literary sensation to timeless classic and now a major motion picture starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Storm Reid, and Mindy Kaling. A Light So Lovely tells the story of the woman at the center of it all - her imagination, her faith, her pattern of defying categories, and what readers today can learn from her legacy. Bestselling and beloved author Madeleine L'Engle, Newbery winner for A Wrinkle in Time, was known the world round for her imaginative spirit and stories. She was also known to spark controversy - too Christian for some, too unorthodox for others. Somewhere in the middle was a complex woman whose embrace of paradox has much to say to a new generation of readers today. A Light So Lovely paints a vivid portrait of this enigmatic icon's spiritual legacy, starting with her inner world and expanding into fresh reflections of her writing for readers today. Listen in on intimate interviews with L'Engle's literary contemporaries such as Philip Yancey and Luci Shaw, L'Engle's granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis, and influential fans such as Makoto Fujimura, Nikki Grimes, and Sarah Bessey, as they reveal new layers to the woman behind the stories we know and love. A vibrant, imaginative read, this book pulls back the curtain to illuminate L'Engle's creative journey, her persevering faith, and the inspiring, often unexpected ways these two forces converged. For anyone earnestly searching the space between sacred and secular, miracle and science, faith and art, come and find a kindred spirit and trusted guide in Madeleine - the Mrs Whatsit to our Meg Murry - as she sparks our imagination anew.


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Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time has captured the imagination of millions - from literary sensation to timeless classic and now a major motion picture starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Storm Reid, and Mindy Kaling. A Light So Lovely tells the story of the woman at the center of it all - her imagination, her faith, her pattern of defying categories, and what r Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time has captured the imagination of millions - from literary sensation to timeless classic and now a major motion picture starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Storm Reid, and Mindy Kaling. A Light So Lovely tells the story of the woman at the center of it all - her imagination, her faith, her pattern of defying categories, and what readers today can learn from her legacy. Bestselling and beloved author Madeleine L'Engle, Newbery winner for A Wrinkle in Time, was known the world round for her imaginative spirit and stories. She was also known to spark controversy - too Christian for some, too unorthodox for others. Somewhere in the middle was a complex woman whose embrace of paradox has much to say to a new generation of readers today. A Light So Lovely paints a vivid portrait of this enigmatic icon's spiritual legacy, starting with her inner world and expanding into fresh reflections of her writing for readers today. Listen in on intimate interviews with L'Engle's literary contemporaries such as Philip Yancey and Luci Shaw, L'Engle's granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis, and influential fans such as Makoto Fujimura, Nikki Grimes, and Sarah Bessey, as they reveal new layers to the woman behind the stories we know and love. A vibrant, imaginative read, this book pulls back the curtain to illuminate L'Engle's creative journey, her persevering faith, and the inspiring, often unexpected ways these two forces converged. For anyone earnestly searching the space between sacred and secular, miracle and science, faith and art, come and find a kindred spirit and trusted guide in Madeleine - the Mrs Whatsit to our Meg Murry - as she sparks our imagination anew.

30 review for A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dale Harcombe

    Being a huge Madeleine L’Engle fan, I was delighted recently to be given a copy of this book about her. Since I have read so much of her work portions of this book were already familiar. However there was enough new material, quotes and thoughts from others who had been influenced by Madeleine L’Engle’s words through her books, lectures, writing classes and personal relationships to balance the familiar with new insights. Although the author points out the amazing legacy Madeleine left, she also Being a huge Madeleine L’Engle fan, I was delighted recently to be given a copy of this book about her. Since I have read so much of her work portions of this book were already familiar. However there was enough new material, quotes and thoughts from others who had been influenced by Madeleine L’Engle’s words through her books, lectures, writing classes and personal relationships to balance the familiar with new insights. Although the author points out the amazing legacy Madeleine left, she also presents the all too human side of a woman who, though an icon for many, was not perfect. This book tell of Madeleine’s faith, the struggles she encountered both from within the Christian community and outside it. Sad that so much opposition came from Christians who did not agree with her views. She also struck opposition from those outside of Christianity who objected to the religious content in her books. Seems she couldn’t win. However, none of this deterred her from writing the truth as she saw it, even if that truth came in the guise of fiction. The style of the book by Sarah Arthur is easy to read. She explores various aspects of Madeleine L’Engle’s life, faith and art which are all irrevocably linked. I enjoyed reading of people’s accounts of their experiences with Madeleine and the effect she had on their lives. I am sure that this is a book I will refer to again and again. It has also left me with a longing to go back and re-visit some of my favourite L’Engle books and I have already ordered one that I discovered was missing from my Genesis trilogy. Whether you are a Madeleine L’Engle fan or not, this is a beautifully written book. It shows what an influence one person can have on others when they let ‘a light so lovely shine,’ in all they are and all they do. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven R. McEvoy

    I was introduced to the works of L'Engle in my 20's and that was 20 years ago. In the last 20 years I have read over thirty of her books, and few authors have had such a huge impact on my life, my faith, and ironically my returning to the Catholic church. But I read most of her books before I got into reviewing, and have yet to write a review of any of her work. And for the most part that is what this book is about, it is about the impact L'Engle has had on art and artists. Earlier this year I r I was introduced to the works of L'Engle in my 20's and that was 20 years ago. In the last 20 years I have read over thirty of her books, and few authors have had such a huge impact on my life, my faith, and ironically my returning to the Catholic church. But I read most of her books before I got into reviewing, and have yet to write a review of any of her work. And for the most part that is what this book is about, it is about the impact L'Engle has had on art and artists. Earlier this year I read Becoming Madeleine A Biography of the Author of a Wrinkle in Time written by L'Engle's granddaughters Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy. The two books are completely different and yet both give us greater insight into L'Engle the woman, the artist, and the icon. There is of course great interest in all things Madeleine L'Engle of late, as we are fast approaching the centaury of her birth, November 29th, 1918. And the release early in 2018 or the politically correct adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. Likely part of the reason both books include in their subtitle 'Author of A Winkle in Time'. The chapters in this volume are: Foreword by Charlotte Jones Voiklis Introduction 1 Icon and Iconoclast 2 Sacred and Secular 3 Truth and Story 4 Faith and Science 5 Religion and Art 6 Fact and Fiction 7 Light in the Darkness Epilogue: Tesser Well Acknowledgments Notes Recommended Books But what makes this book unique in the emerging field of L'Engle Studies is that it was written after a series of interviews. Charlotte Jones Voiklis in the forward writes: "… as Sarah asked me questions and shared her thoughts about my grandmother, I knew I'd met someone with deep compassion, curiosity, and intellect. We talked about my grandmother's life: her habits, milestones, and challenges, and what we each knew to be her impact on others. As we spoke, what moved me to tears was Sarah's willingness to look at Madeleine and accept her as a full and flawed human being; an icon and iconoclast, not an idol." And that is what we get in this volume, an honest look at L'Engle flaws and all. Not a Saint placed upon a pedestal, but a human, and a human that had faults. Arthur presents L'Engle not in an intentionally unfavorable light, but also not glossing over faults and failures. She presents the artist who lived blurry lines between art and reality, between what she believed and what actually happened. But someone who strived to live her life in line with her faith. Arthur states that her purpose was to trace L'Engle's journey, and the impact of her works. She decided to do so through Seven themes: "Chapter One-We'll survey her life and works as a whole, attempting to identify her spheres of influence, both as a cherished friend and mentor as well as a complex, flawed human being. Chapter Two-We'll dive into her story where many readers do, with A Wrinkle in Time-a book that, like Madeleine herself, somehow bridges the often vastly different worlds of sacred and secular in American culture. Chapter Three-We'll step back and trace her own spiritual formation as a child through the influence of great stories that gave her hints and glimpses of God's truth. Chapter Four-We'll track the life-changing impact of scientists on her conversion to Christianity when she was a youngish write-at- home mom. Chapter Five-We'll chart her profound spiritual influence on others during her prolific middle age, particularly her continued assertion that artistic practice is a religious vocation. Chapter Six-We'll make the difficult turn toward her personal challenges later in life-the loss of her son, among other things-and her troubling propensity to blur fact and fiction. Chapter Seven-Finally, we'll identify the ways that Madeleine attempted to battle the darkness, especially in her own soul, and to cling with resolute desperation to the light." As such the book is a great addition to the growing canon of work on L'Engle's life and influence. It is well written and engaging. It can easily be read by older teen fans of L'Engle's works, and those of us even older than that will appreciate it greatly. Personally, as a fan of all of her works, especially her religious works this book sheds so good light on the icon and her process. L'Engle was an enigma in her lifetime, many Christians disliked her work as not orthodox enough, and non-Christians and the intelligentsia looks at her works with suspicion because of all the religious content. This book in part looks at how she handled that, and how the artist in her continued on and continued to create. Well worth the read for any fan of her works, and looking for a glimpse of the impact she has had on authors and artists over the last 60 plus years. Note: I in part owe my own writing reviews to L'Engle, I met her at a conference in 1997, I grew up with a dual form of dyslexia and was told by a high school teacher that half of what I wrote was worth publishing, the other half for wiping his a.. L'Engle encouraged me to write, and I have published over 2000 reviews and written for 8 different publications. Read the review on my blog Book Reviews and More along with links to other reviews of books about Madeleine L'Engle.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee Cowles

    "Artists continually find themselves playing apologist to their fellow believers--a role that can become exhausting over time," writes Sarah Arthur in her latest book, A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle. As a member of a community for Christian artists that spends significant energy explaining why artists and the arts should even matter to the Church, I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Yet unlike many Christians who are also writers, I can't say that Madeleine "Artists continually find themselves playing apologist to their fellow believers--a role that can become exhausting over time," writes Sarah Arthur in her latest book, A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle. As a member of a community for Christian artists that spends significant energy explaining why artists and the arts should even matter to the Church, I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Yet unlike many Christians who are also writers, I can't say that Madeleine L'Engle was one of the formative authors who inspired me to try writing fiction. I've read bits of her nonfiction and I vaguely remember reading A Wrinkle In Time as a young child, but Madeleine hasn't influenced me like some of the other well-known writers of faith (e.g. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton...you know the initial-loving, tea-drinking crew). And that's precisely what I appreciate most about Sarah Arthur's new book--while it covers some of the most important "plot points" of L'Engle's life, it is not a straightforward biography, but rather an examination of her paradoxical and lasting influence in the spheres of creativity and faith. Arthur explores this influence through interviews with writers today (including Lucie Shaw, Jeffrey Overstreet, and Sara Zarr) who have been especially impacted by L'Engle's work and life. And what is this legacy? Why is it that books by a 20th century Christian author are still celebrated by mainstream publishing and the broader culture? Arthur suggests Madeleine L'Engle's stories continue to speak not because they contain the right "message," but because they shine a lovely light onto our world and invite readers to consider that light's source. Yet like many authors who've experienced their own version of the "hero's journey" they write about, L'Engle's success as a writer did not come quickly or easily, but followed years of struggle and rejection (a.k.a., the hero enters The Abyss). Even after her stories were published, L'Engle continued to endure rejection, only now it often came from her own tribe--other people of faith who either did not find her books "Christian enough," or considered them outright dangerous. In other words, Madeleine L'Engle struggled with a tension many Christian storytellers struggle with today--how do we make good art that reflects our roles as "sub-creators" (to use Tolkien's term) without resorting to safe, "clean" (a description that could not, ahem, ever be used for the Bible), and predictable "Come to Jesus moment" formulas that provide readers with comfort (in the same way the happy ending of a romance novel provides comfort), but often feel detached from the actual walk of faith (just as typical romance tropes may not highlight the mundane difficulties of an actual marriage). Not to mention detached from the cross. At the same time, the last thing our cynical, "keeping it real" culture needs is more cynicism masquerading as "realism." So where does that leave us? Instead of promoting either escapism or ideology, how do we create art that reflects the reality of the human condition--both in its fallenness and glory--while remaining bold enough to adopt a missional mindset that avoids merely preaching to the choir? Turning to Madeleine L'Engle as an example, Sarah Arthur offers this response in the chapter entitled "Religion and Art": "So, we make good art, and we hope that by doing so we have offered up an honest, well-executed gift of workshop to the Maker who designed us to make things. And we share that work with our fellow readers--not just our fellow believers, but all story-loving humans--because not only do we want them to experience our own delight in making it, but also because, as people of faith, we are called to play a small part in transforming the culture in which we live. Our works become icons: windows by which others can see the "light so lovely." And by this, we hope, lives can be changed. Including our own." It seems so simple, doesn't it? Good art isn't about promoting the right moral or theological message disguised as a story; it's about revealing who we truly are. But just because the task is simple doesn't mean it's without risks or misunderstandings--after all, "who we truly are" is up for debate in most spheres of life today. Perhaps this is where the often-cited writing rule "show, don't tell" may be helpful. If "beings designed by a Maker to make things" is a significant part of who we are, then let's start by making more beautiful things, more icons. Whether you consider yourself an "artist" in the formal sense or not, as a human being you are a sub-creator, gifted with the creative capacity to cultivate beauty in the spaces and relationships around you. The legacy of Madeleine L'Engle described in A Light So Lovely encourages us--all of us--to embrace this identity Soli Deo gloria.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    At a farmhouse halfway between our house and our church lives a peacock. We don’t see him every time we drive by, but we always slow down to look. We’ve found him walking among the free-range chickens, hopping on the bird feeder, even perched on the handle of a tiller parked in the garden. His feathers draped over the porch railing, or the end of the truck bed are an extravagant spectacle not to be missed. It always surprises me when my friends at church don’t know he exists. Haven’t you ever see At a farmhouse halfway between our house and our church lives a peacock. We don’t see him every time we drive by, but we always slow down to look. We’ve found him walking among the free-range chickens, hopping on the bird feeder, even perched on the handle of a tiller parked in the garden. His feathers draped over the porch railing, or the end of the truck bed are an extravagant spectacle not to be missed. It always surprises me when my friends at church don’t know he exists. Haven’t you ever seen him? I ask. Haven’t you ever slowed down to let a car pass so you could watch him an extra minute? Once you know he exists, it’s hard not to search for him. Once you’ve seen the potential for beauty to flare in the most unexpected places, don’t you always hope it will return again? After a lifetime of reading, one author stands out in particular for her outrageous flourishes that have kept me hunting for hints of the same beauty in every book I read. Madeline L’Engle came into my life in 6th grade through an assignment to read A Wrinkle in Time. Meeting Meg Murry was meeting a friend. Chasing her through time and space was the adventure of a lifetime. When Meg discovered love was the most powerful force in the universe, it didn’t feel like a cliche to me. It made me feel the truth of a true thing. It turns out I’m not the only one who had a life-changing encounter with L’Engle’s fiction. Sarah Arthur’s new book A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeline L’Engle introduced me to a whole host of others who found L’Engle somewhere along life’s journey and were marked by this woman who, even without formal training in either science or theology, “managed to bring the two into faithful conversation” through her daring fiction (107). This book sheds light on L’Engle’s influence as a writer who defied categorization and is organized around several paradoxes that L’Engle embodied. With chapters titled “Faith and Science,”, “Sacred and Secular,” “Religion and Art,” Arthur gathers examples from L’Engle’s writing and from those she influenced to show what a rare bird L’Engle was. As Arthur says in her introduction, when she discovered L’Engle in college she knew she “had found a Christian author who spoke my language of wonder, who somehow didn’t see things such as scientific discovery or artistic expression as threats to the gospel but rather windows by which we can see God’s light from new and exciting angles” (17). It isn’t hard to find biographical material on L’Engle. After all, she wrote several autobiographies. A recently published biography called Becoming Madeline (written by L’Engle’s granddaughters) details her early life and reveals just how determined L’Engle was to become a writer. Instead of replaying her biography, Arthur interprets L’Engle’s legacy, both by drawing on her own understandings and through interviews with people who knew L’Engle closely and from several generations of those who admired and were influenced by her work. A Light So Lovely will introduce the uninitiated to a woman whose fiction dared to defy all categorization and will give fans a powerful understanding of the woman behind favorites like A Wrinkle in Time and Walking on Water. Ultimately, this book becomes a celebration not only of L’Engle but of the very power of fiction (a subject of which Sarah Arthur is herself well-versed, as the author of several literary devotionals and the preliminary fiction judge for the Christianity Today Book Awards). L’Engle believes in the power of storytelling because stories reveal our “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically” (70). L’Engle believed in the imagination–“Without it, how can anyone believe in the Incarnation?” (52)–as a means by which we can understand and celebrate truth. For Madeline L’Engle, the focus was always on writing excellent stories, not preaching a message. As she said herself, “It it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject” (138). Reading A Light So Lovely helped me to understand what it was that made her books so unique: she peopled them with heroes who accomplished great things through vulnerability and uncertainty (87) who learned to solve problems with their (spectacularly intelligent) family and friends (106). Jeffrey Overstreet describes her appeal when he says “She puts into the world of these very ambitious, very intellectual children these illustrations of wild scientific concepts and proves to you that there is no line between the physical world and spiritual world, nor any division between the sacred and the secular” (106). Reading A Wrinkle in Time with my public school classmates, I couldn’t believe she quoted scripture alongside bold ideas about physics and biology. I couldn’t get enough. Arthur doesn’t flinch when it comes time to tell of L’Engle’s blindspots–the way her fiction sometimes trivialized or trampled the real lives of her immediate family or her risky theological claims–in part because L’Engle herself said she was “grateful to be loved and appreciated (but) I don’t want to be adored” (46). This spiritual biography offers a chance for life-long fans and the uninitiated alike to admire L’Engle without being tempted to idolize her. Arthur’s appealing combination of personal reflection along with interviews of both L’Engle’s loved ones and fans display L’Engle in all her peculiar glory. She was indeed a rare bird, one not usually seen around these parts, but after she’s showed you the potential for beauty in the world, it’s hard not to hope you’ll catch another glimpse. (This review originally appeared at Servants of Grace.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ladydusk

    Library. 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 dissatisfie Library. 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anne Hamilton

    In some ways I found this book as genre-bending as Madeleine L'Engle's own work was reputed to be. Partly memoir, partly interviews, partly commentary, it straddles a strange space that was at times thoroughly down-to-earth and at other times imbued with a sense of the numinous. I found the book hard to engage with at first and have to admit that I put it aside, after the opening chapter, where it stayed for several months. Then I read a book on children's literature which so denounced L'Engle's In some ways I found this book as genre-bending as Madeleine L'Engle's own work was reputed to be. Partly memoir, partly interviews, partly commentary, it straddles a strange space that was at times thoroughly down-to-earth and at other times imbued with a sense of the numinous. I found the book hard to engage with at first and have to admit that I put it aside, after the opening chapter, where it stayed for several months. Then I read a book on children's literature which so denounced L'Engle's work with such certitude that I genuinely wondered if I'd misunderstood her writing and even misread it. (This happens from time to time—I lost a position once because I quoted L'Engle with approval and someone on the board took exception to my admiration.) The hostility I've encountered was obviously part and parcel of L'Engle's life—a very difficult and unpleasant part. For the record, I'd like to state—because this is the complaint I've encountered so often, bizarrely even from those who have read the book—there are no witches in A Wrinkle in Time , disguised or otherwise. Mrs Who, Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Which (that's W-H-I-C-H, not W-I-T-C-H) are essentially guardian angels, not witches. I was very pleased to see the comments on Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art which I find, like so many other authors, was for me a watershed in going back to writing when I was despairing I would ever create anything worthwhile and was totally ready to give up. And I was so interested to see that the "kaleidoscopic" style of the book was a result of Luci Shaw's editorial intervention. "Kaleidoscopic" is my personal term for it because I wanted to have a way to describe the kind of writing I was emulating in my own non-fiction. In the end, the complex and contradictory humanity of Madeleine L'Engle shines through the pages, light and dark, gleaming and shadowed. A wonderful book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    W. Whalin

    A Fascinating Look at the Spiritual Life of Madeleine L’Engle Admittedly I am an unusual person to read this book about Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve never read her classic Newbery winner A WRINKLE IN TIME nor any of her other books. Sarah Author is a Madeleine L’Engle expert from her research and reading. This text shows great admiration and yet realism about the life of this well-known writer. As Arthur writes in the opening pages, “Let’s illuminate the life and legacy of this extraordinary woman suc A Fascinating Look at the Spiritual Life of Madeleine L’Engle Admittedly I am an unusual person to read this book about Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve never read her classic Newbery winner A WRINKLE IN TIME nor any of her other books. Sarah Author is a Madeleine L’Engle expert from her research and reading. This text shows great admiration and yet realism about the life of this well-known writer. As Arthur writes in the opening pages, “Let’s illuminate the life and legacy of this extraordinary woman such that we experience both the grace and the struggle that helped her shape a generation and beyond. Because ultimately it’s not her own light we’re drawn to, but the light of Christ she lifted up, however, imperfectly to the world. By knowing her better, we might better understand our own particular darknesses, in this unique chapter of American history, and how we’re called to be light-bearers too.” (Page 24) I appreciated how Arthur categorized L’Engle as a storyteller and that storytellers embellish. “The point of every given story might be true—such as manuscripts get rejected a lot—and along the way Madeleine supplied the concrete details every good writing teacher asks for: so for instance, A Wrinkle in Time was rejected twenty-seven times. Or thirty. Or thirty-seven. (By the 2003 anthology for Kathleen Long Bostrom from author interviews, the number of times had risen to “over forty.”) I can picture Madeleine shrugging. Details, details. The point is, authors can plan on their manuscripts getting rejected. A lot. That’s true.” (Page 154) I enjoyed reading A LIGHT SO LOVELY and recommend it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    RuthAnn

    Recommended, but know that the target audience is Christian readers I was impressed with this new release! I had approached the book somewhat skeptically, standing back a bit with my arms crossed, not sure whether there was new ground to tread in terms of Madeleine and faith. Hadn’t Madeleine said it all herself, in her works on the topic? However, the book redeemed itself with primary accounts from Madeleine's friends and family, reflections on her as a writer and a person, and challenging, enco Recommended, but know that the target audience is Christian readers I was impressed with this new release! I had approached the book somewhat skeptically, standing back a bit with my arms crossed, not sure whether there was new ground to tread in terms of Madeleine and faith. Hadn’t Madeleine said it all herself, in her works on the topic? However, the book redeemed itself with primary accounts from Madeleine's friends and family, reflections on her as a writer and a person, and challenging, encouraging, invigorating words about the Christian faith in general. I’m glad I own a copy that I can refer back to, and it has definitely earned its spot in my Madeleine collection. --- At times, it's hard to tell where her influence leaves off and my own thinking begins. (18) What would it look like to have friendships with those who are not like us, wherein we can learn to argue well and lovingly -- and yet at the end of the day we can still be friends? This is a lost art in our culture, particularly as we create ever narrower, taller, insular silos on social media, cut off from opposing viewpoints. ... False unity is no healthier than silos of like-mindedness. (43) We affirm the faith by participating in its communal stories together. (82) The radical call of faith is not to insist upon a set of universal principles about right and wrong, but to offer an alternative story by which lives can be shaped into new instincts, new practices, new ways of speaking and being in the world. (90) Scientific pursuit, then, becomes a key spiritual discipline -- a gateway, the prelude, to worship. (117) ... she said, "We read stories, and we write stories because we ask the big questions to which there are no finite answers. We tell stories about people who give us our best answers, in the way that they live and work out their lives and treat other people and try to find the truth." If a novel isn't about those questions, then what is it doing? (123) Prayer, worship, reading Scripture, breaking bread in community, spiritual counsel, and conversation with spiritual friends: all those are ways we put one foot in front of the other, even in the dark. These are the ways we practice believing. (190) It starts with the closing of the shutters against the darkness. It starts with our determination to go to bed quietly and fearlessly, talking to God about our day. Then, when dawn comes, we can arise like Madeleine, open the shutters, and let in the light so lovely, whether we feel like it or not. (193) ... we don't inhabit some kind of eternal Pinterest board, surrounded by inspirational phrases and uncluttered homes and well-behaved children. That sounds just a little too much like Camazotz, actually. (201)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Short Review: It is surprising that there are not more biographies of Madeleine L'Engle. There is a children's biography by her granddaughters, a book of remembrances by a variety of people, but that is about it. A Light so Lovely is biographical, but not really a full biography. It is more an exploration of her work and her influence on others, especially writers and artists that have been impacted by L'Engle's work in the arts. Most of the chapters are about tensions in L'Engle, tensions that Short Review: It is surprising that there are not more biographies of Madeleine L'Engle. There is a children's biography by her granddaughters, a book of remembrances by a variety of people, but that is about it. A Light so Lovely is biographical, but not really a full biography. It is more an exploration of her work and her influence on others, especially writers and artists that have been impacted by L'Engle's work in the arts. Most of the chapters are about tensions in L'Engle, tensions that she wanted to be both/and not either/or, Science and Faith, Art and Religion, Icon and Iconoclast. There are also many remembrances and comments about her influence. All of that to say, don't go into this expecting a detailed biography, this isn't that kind of book. But it is well worth reading because L'Engle is fascinating and influential and important. I have been reading a number of biographies and memoirs particularly to mine spiritual wisdom. Her Crosswick Journals were some of my favorites last year. And I was glad to have the story of her life complicated here. I suspected as I read the Crosswick Journals that her vocation as a novelist led her to complete stories and simplify them in ways that others around her would not. This is well worth reading if you have been influenced by L'Engle, especially if you are an author, artist or book lover. My longer review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/light-so-lovely/

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Hietbrink

    I’ve been a big L’Engle fan since my college years—she shaped me more as a Christian artist than I think any other writer I’ve read. This biography was a gift to read, in these times particularly. I was reminded why I was so stirred and changed by her writings. It brought me to genuine tears of gratitude for this woman and the Savior she and I both love.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charity Rau

    Madeleine L’Engle’s life has always inspired me, and with this book it did so even more. I really enjoyed it, and agree wholeheartedly with this quote from Madeleine: “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elliott

    When I was a boy, I read books. Devoured them, to be more precise. And in the reading came the shaping of both my imagination and my spiritual formation. I discovered belief in story, in narrative, and in creativity. So much of who I am and what I believe can be found by simply perusing my bookshelves. My spiritual path was no less arduous or magical than that of Dorothy's wandering along the yellow-brick road or Christian's as he makes his way to the Celestial City. Though the books I read as a When I was a boy, I read books. Devoured them, to be more precise. And in the reading came the shaping of both my imagination and my spiritual formation. I discovered belief in story, in narrative, and in creativity. So much of who I am and what I believe can be found by simply perusing my bookshelves. My spiritual path was no less arduous or magical than that of Dorothy's wandering along the yellow-brick road or Christian's as he makes his way to the Celestial City. Though the books I read as a child were an escape from the boredom of school or the loneliness of my boyhood, they were also journeys into learning awe, amazement, wonder, delight, bravery, honesty, generosity, and that there was more to this world than my young philosophy could dream of, though they did start me dreaming grander, bigger, and more expansively about what was truly possible. Fantasy and fairy tales made me believe that the impossible was possible and opened my young spirit to allowing for miracles, for the Incarnation, for the Resurrection, and for eternal life to exist in a world far beyond our own, and created a longing in me for a home I had never seen but knew would be the place where I most belonged. As a boy, I filled my imagination with writers like George MacDonald, E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edward Eager, T.H. White, and Diana Wynne Jones. It was only as I got older that I would discover and read the theological works of writers like MacDonald and Lewis, though their fantasy novels would be the wardrobe that led me from reading about mystery into Divine Mystery. It was such fairy tales and fantasies that opened me up to the power of language and story, which I would encounter even more greatly when I first began reading a copy of the Bible given to me by the Presbyterian church my family attended. I loved stories that began, "Once upon a time . . ." or "Once there was a boy . . ." or "A long time ago . . ." These words of entry into a more magical realm of possibility allowed me to make that leap to "In the beginning . . ." as the scripture starts. The library, like my church, became a holy place. It was filled with words and story and wisdom. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." When I first read that sentence in the Gospel of John, I could love this God, this God of words, who created through words, and who understood, like fairy tales, the importance of giving something a name, a true name. "The Word became flesh." What an idea. What a glorious, marvelous idea! As a boy reading this phrase for the first time gave me goosebumps. It was magical and wondrous. And, unlike the fairy tales I read, this was true. And its name, Incarnation, was no less magical and reminded me of incantation, the series of magic spells or charms. Some reading this might think my spiritual logic was heretical and would condemn me for connecting the gospel to things like magic (some shudder, gasp, and balk at the mere idea - it reeks of witchcraft and wizardry), but I understood the difference between magic (which was make-believe) and miracles (which even nature was filled with: birth, life, death, rebirth). Writers like MacDonald, Lewis, and Tolkien were not only great fantasists, they were also Christians whose works shaped and formed my own faith. Yet it was a fateful encounter in our local school library that would introduce me to an author who would continue to have a huge impact on my own beliefs, on my ability to accept paradox and questioning within my faith, and in whom I would find a kindred spirit. And it all started when I took a well-worn paperback down from the school library's shelf. There was something magical and mysterious and even creepy about the cover that gathered in my boyish imagination and I found myself checking it out and I found myself wanting desperately to begin reading it immediately, but, alas, couldn't because we had something far more important to learn like boring old math. I would have to wait until recess. While other kids, including my friends, were running and laughing and enjoying playing outside, I hid myself beneath a tree, opened the book and read, "It was a dark and stormy night." Never before had I read a fantasy book (or was it science fiction? Or was it both?) that was so Christian. Though I had heard sermons about it, there in story form, was this theological truth, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1st Corinthians 1:27). Meg Murry, who disliked so much about herself (something I could deeply relate to), learned that her faults could also be her strengths. I loved Meg and I loved Madeleine for creating her (not knowing that so much of Meg was Madeleine herself). When I finished reading A Wrinkle in Time, I instantly started re-reading it and did until I had to turn it back in to the school library the next week. At which time, I quickly checked out the next book, A Wind in the Door. Reading these amazing stories, I wondered who this conjurer of magical worlds was. Who was Madeleine L'Engle? This was long before the Internet and the ability to simply Google someone or to ask Alexa. I don't remember how I finally came across a photograph of Madeleine L'Engle, but when I did I saw this woman who had on enormous glasses and I gasped in delight, "She's Mrs. Who!" And like Mrs. Who, L'Engle taught me to see the light in the darkness, and to see what others cannot see. Just as she was Meg, Madeleine was also Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, the guardian angels. And she was a guardian angel in her own way to me over the years. After my family left the Presbyterian denomination for more far conservative, evangelical or even Pentecostal ones, I found myself becoming isolated from the biblical stories I so loved and the Jesus I wanted to follow. It was a time when I began hearing about a divide between the secular world and the sacred world, though they didn't use that far too Catholic word; instead, hiding behind masking words like "pure," "clean," "edifying," and "Christian." I was baffled. I had grown up believing, as the poet Gerard Manly Hopkins had written that "the world was charged with the grandeur of God." I had been taught that God had created all things and declared all things "good," but now I had been thrust out of this Eden into one where there was an "us" and a "them," where there was "either/or" instead of "but/and." I was lost. They were distrustful of the imagination, of all things magical, of any kind of secular music, and of the culture in general. It was fearful. I had been taught that God had not given us a spirit of fear, but this was a religion steeped in distrust and fear. I believe that is what religion really is: it is when faith is replaced by fear. My questions were not welcome in such churches. They did not embrace paradox, or mystery, or doubt of any kind. Doubt meant only a lack of faith. Just believe. When forced to draw a line between such black and white beliefs, I found myself unable to accept what they were demanding of me. Maybe I wasn't a Christian, after all. Maybe I was one of the lost who, when the rapture took place, would be left behind. I lived in constant fear and worry. Once again, Madeleine L'Engle was a voice crying out in the wilderness. "To be truly Christian," she wrote, "means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all." Madeleine reminded me what it really meant to have faith, to follow Christ, and that it was okay to have questions and to read the Bible as story and not literally, in that either/or manner of "Either you believe that everything was created exactly as the book of Genesis says it was or you do not believe any of the Bible." She reminded me that there was not this line between sacred and secular. "Life cannot be separated into secular and sacred," she wrote, "that if God created everything, and called it good, then all of life is good, and only we can see it as sacrilegious. Just as the act of making love can be so sacramental, so can all aspects of our lives, even the most lowly. If we cannot pray in the bathroom, it is not likely that we will be able to pray anywhere." I both laughed aloud and nodded my head in agreement with her wisdom.YES! Like those who are guided by the Spirit, who are like the wind and we know not where they are coming or going, so, too, was the writing of Madeleine L'Engle for me. She did not write like those I heard preaching and teaching in the church and I was thankful for that. Her works became a spiritual oasis in a theological desert. She made me remember that the gospel was good news. Through works like her Crosswicks Journals, her Genesis Trilogy, her poetry, her other theological works (such as The Rock That is Higher), and her Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, I encountered a mind that was both Christian and thinking. She did not see a disconnect between science and the sacred, between art and faith, paradox and belief. She offered me the "and/but" of being able to have questions without answers, of realizing that it is a Divine Mystery, that the more we understood of science the bigger and grander God became. In her book A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle, Sarah Arthur writes of L'Engle being an icon. Many evangelicals will disdainfully dismiss the notion of iconography and connect it to idols, but they miss the point of spiritual icons. Icons are not representations of the holy, they are meant to reflect the sacred. Scripture teaches that we are all Imago Dei, created in the divine image; therefore we are all icons - images of the holy, of the sacred. In Arthur's book, she quotes Thomas Bona as saying that he loved L'Engle's "joyful uncertainty" and when I read that phrase, I completely understood what he meant. What I loved and responded to in L'Engle's writing was that she showed you why she was a Christian and did not hide her own struggles, doubts, wrestlings, wonderings, and wanderings. Perhaps that was why so many of the people I went to church with were horrified that I would read L'Engle, whom they saw as dangerous and a universalist. In A Light so Lovely, Arthur recounts an event that took place between Madeleine and a student at a conservative evangelical college during a Q&A session. He asked her if she was what my fellow church-goers said she was: a universalist. When she told him she wasn't, he came back with, "But your books do seem to indicate that you believe that God is forgiving." "What an extraordinary statement!" Madeleine exclaimed. Sarah Arthur writes: The conversation devolved from there, with the student backpedaling a bit, and Madeleine pressing him, "I don't think God is going to fail with Creation. I don't worship a failing God, Do you want God to fail?" Well, insisted the student, there had to be "absolute justice." "Is that what you want?" she demanded. ". . . Me, I want lots and lots of mercy. Don't you want mercy at all?" Unlike those whom I attended church with, sat side by side with during worship and sermons, I was not shocked or horrified by her theology. Instead, I could trace it back to a writer we both loved and admired: George MacDonald. MacDonald believed that because of God's grace, none would fail to ultimately unite with God. He wrote, "I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one—that he will not leave his sins and come out of them, and be the child of him who is his Father." He was forced to resign his pulpit in 1853. Yet MacDonald's sermons and writing would go on to influence C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oswald Chambers, G.K. Chesterton, and Madeleine L'Engle. Lewis once wrote of his great debt to MacDonald, "I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him." Madeleine L'Engle would later say, about the charge of universalism, "what the evangelicals mean by universalism is that all of a sudden, and for no particular reason, God is going to wave a magic wand and say, 'Okay, everybody, out of hell, home free.' So, no, I say I am not a universalist; that plays trivially with free will." As I read Sarah Arthur's A Light so Lovely, I was reminded yet again of why I respond and love the work of L'Engle so much. Even the title of this book comes from one of my favorite L'Engle quotes, "We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it." This is how I try to live my spiritual life: to walk daily in such a way that those around me want to know the meaning of my joy and contentment or why I believe what I believe. Madeleine L'Engle's expansive and often unorthodox theology allowed for my own. She taught me about possibility and paradox, about the importance of story and narrative within the Bible, and of the steadfastness of God (something I discover a lot in the Psalms). In regards to his steadfastness, she sounds like a Psalmist when she writes, "I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly." As someone who struggles deeply with depression, these are words I desperately need and cling to. Sarah Arthur's book is a much-needed exploration of the wide and generous faith of Madeleine L'Engle as well as dealing with both the late author's strengths and weaknesses, including her taking quite liberally from the life of her family for her writing. She reminds us of why L'Engle's work is so necessary and offers those who were both friends of L'Engle that had both discussions and debates about theology and creativity with her. This book paints her as complex as she really was and made me want to go back and reread many of L'Engle's books that have so shaped both my imagination and spiritual formation.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angie Fehl

    3.5 Stars Wow, this little spiritual bio on L'Engle covers so much about her life in general it is hard to know where to start with a review, but I'll give it a go. Author Sarah Arthur became deeply invested in L'Engle's works thanks to the recommendation of a college roommate. Arthur even got a chance to get to know L'Engle in person after the author gave speeches at Arthur's alma mater, Wheaton College. Years later, we readers now have this exploration of L'Engle's spiritual legacy, aided by pe 3.5 Stars Wow, this little spiritual bio on L'Engle covers so much about her life in general it is hard to know where to start with a review, but I'll give it a go. Author Sarah Arthur became deeply invested in L'Engle's works thanks to the recommendation of a college roommate. Arthur even got a chance to get to know L'Engle in person after the author gave speeches at Arthur's alma mater, Wheaton College. Years later, we readers now have this exploration of L'Engle's spiritual legacy, aided by personal commentary from various notable authors, scientists, theologians and friends and family who share their memorable interactions with the famed author of A Wrinkle In Time, one of dozens of books she authored over her lifetime. Though not the only topic covered, the bulk of this book focuses on L'Engle's lifelong spiritual journey: how it evolved, how it was worked into her writings, and how she was, at times, vilified by some of her audience for being, as they saw it, a hypocritical Christian. They questioned how she could consider herself a person of honest faith, a true follower, if she continued to publish books that incorporated elements of magic and science fiction. L'Engle was never apologetic for her beliefs or her methods of practicing them and this book illustrates how she would hold her stance against critics. In its essence, L'Engle's belief system can be boiled down to "sacred can be found in the secular". She insists that faith is a personal experience, so it should be a given that there's no one way to do it. Yet the world is full of so-called believers who will, in fact, happily line up to point at others and say yes, they ARE definitely doing it (religion) wrong. A Light So Lovely rolls out testimonial after testimonial, all these generations of readers who have had their own faith journey strengthened/ renewed / restored by L'Engle's influence, often without her knowledge... usually simply through the readings of her wonderfully whimsical and inspiring stories... that yes, at times, do incorporate subtle Christian imagery, much like C.S. Lewis (who is compared to her quite a bit in this book). Many interviewed for this book explain that her stories helped them feel it was okay to have questions about doctrines or experience feelings of skepticism or confusion. All she ever asked of her readers was to strive to never lose their childhood sense of wonder about the world. The story regarding the development of A Wrinkle In Time I found pretty interesting. L'Engle and her husband had been living in Connecticut with their family up until 1959, when they chose to move the homestead to New York. But before starting the move, they decided to take the family on a cross-country roadtrip, camping and visiting major US landmarks from coast to coast. On this trip, L'Engle toted around a box full of books by scientists and philosophers which she delved into each night after the rest of the crew went to bed. The reading of these books got her thinking which led to the germination of a loose outline of what would become A Wrinkle In Time. When she got settled back into a home, she had a first rough draft knocked out in three months! When the first book came out, her focus wasn't so much on the accuracy of the science presented in the novel but scientists then (and even to this day) sure weighed in. Once she had a plot idea for the sequel, she realized it would involve cellular biology and so dived into an in-depth study of the actual science behind her ideas months before any writing of the novel even began. Arthur also gets into a discussion of the writing process itself as well as a look into the dynamics of the creative life in general, comparing L'Engle's process to her own. Much of this portion is to be found in the chapter "Fact and Fiction", the chapter I struggled the most with... mainly because it proved the most thought-provoking for me, being a writer myself. Arthur points out the perhaps controversial choice L'Engle made to partially fictionalize her memoir series, The Crosswick Journals. Investigating this story, Arthur poses the question of how in the right L'Engle was to do this and still publish these books as nonfiction. L'Engle excuses herself by saying its not so much lying, but more like embellishing (part of me argues that her reasoning tiptoes into semantics) but Arthur asks then how far does the writer's duty extend? One should be accountable for their thoughts, beliefs, word choice, etc.. but where does the duty end? Or does it? How far is an author responsible for the potentially damaging reaction a reader might have if their personal truth or belief does not echo the author's? Arthur uses L'Engle's own family as an example: though L'Engle stood by the validity of her journals, her own children repeatedly came forward and said things just did not go down as she said. Likewise, L'Engle would dispute their versions, the children would argue that the journals presented a too idyllic version of their home life, back and forth, back and forth. Surprisingly, a couple of her kids actually pointed to the novels in her Austin Family Chronicles series as more true to their reality, even saying it hit TOO close to home at times. In fact, adopted daughter Maria flat out said she HATED the Austin Family books! It makes one wonder, after reading that L'Engle's youngest child, Bion, died of liver failure induced by alcoholism at the age of 47. With a foreword by Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L'Engle's granddaughter, A Light So Lovely sums up L'Engle's life full of complicated, confusing, sometimes even saddening ideas, thought processes or choices with one basic idea: when it comes to life, just show up and be present no matter what. Don't expect to always have the answers or to even be happy every day. Life is a collection of highs and lows, so ride out the lows so you can be here for the highs. I was really enjoying the first half of this book, even maybe thinking it might make it on my favorite reads of the year list, but there were some slow bits that changed my mind. There's a portion in the middle where the focus goes off the life of L'Engle and just turns more into a sermon on theology itself, to the point where I was starting to tune out a bit, if I may be honest. This trend continues on and off (though less so) for the rest of the book, so consider yourself warned if heavy-handed theology is not your thing. Even so, there's still plenty of fascinating L'Engle focused material here that has inspired me to getting digging into her bibliography again, revisiting old favorites as well as finally getting to those I've not yet tried. *Something to note: since this book covers the span of L'Engle's life, keep in mind that there will be some spoilers for her books in here, primarily the Time Quartet and the Austin Family Chronicles. FTC Disclaimer: Handlebar Marketing and Zondervan Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Some say Madeline L'Engle is the C.S. Lewis for a new generation and I would have to agree. This goes into more of L'Engle's life and her influence for the Christian readers and writers. Arthur is a beautiful writer and having just read Walking on Water by L'Engle, I think she captures her style so well. This has so much depth and contemplation that it had me thinking a lot about religion and art and what is fact and fiction and how to 'tesser well.' And it makes we want to give A Wrinkle in Tim Some say Madeline L'Engle is the C.S. Lewis for a new generation and I would have to agree. This goes into more of L'Engle's life and her influence for the Christian readers and writers. Arthur is a beautiful writer and having just read Walking on Water by L'Engle, I think she captures her style so well. This has so much depth and contemplation that it had me thinking a lot about religion and art and what is fact and fiction and how to 'tesser well.' And it makes we want to give A Wrinkle in Time another chance because it felt a little over my head as a young reader.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    Madeleine L’Engle actually has had a big influence on my spiritual life - I think that she, along with just a few others (including, fortunately, my dad) made me feel ok about having a ton of questions that were impossible to answer, and having an imagination, and thinking that the big things of science actually point to God, not away from him. So my heart found joy in this biography, as it made me feel more connected to her.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Holly Splawn

    Sarah Arthur does justice to Madeleine describing her as a icon, a window through which Christ’s light shines. An imperfect, human icon. Beautifully and thoughtfully written. “We need to make people know that the good news is truly good news. I was chastised because I didn’t write for Christians. And I said, “Well, I don’t preach to the choir. I want the good news to spread. I want people to understand what makes life wonderful and terrible and bearable is God’s grace and love and laughter.” ML

  17. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    A short volume that expresses many of the things I love about Madeleine L'Engle. She insisted on being herself rather than reworking her personality to fit neat categories. She loved myth and story and family and science. She insisted that bad art cannot reflect good theology. She knew there was more to truth than provable fact. She wrote what she wanted to write. She also failed a lot of times in her life, and sometimes waved away the details or dismissed the experiences of her family. A short volume that expresses many of the things I love about Madeleine L'Engle. She insisted on being herself rather than reworking her personality to fit neat categories. She loved myth and story and family and science. She insisted that bad art cannot reflect good theology. She knew there was more to truth than provable fact. She wrote what she wanted to write. She also failed a lot of times in her life, and sometimes waved away the details or dismissed the experiences of her family.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gina Dalfonzo

    At last I understand why so many have been raving about this book! It's wonderfully written and deeply inspiring. At last I understand why so many have been raving about this book! It's wonderfully written and deeply inspiring.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris MacLeavy

    Called a female C. S. Lewis, I had no idea of the extent to which L’Engle contributed to shaping Christian thought. So much more than the author of A Wrinkle in Time, I’ve learned a great deal from her through this biography about prayer, worship, reading scripture, breaking bread in community, spiritual counsel, and conversations with spiritual friends as a means to not only fight the darkness but let shine the Light so lovely.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kaley Rhea

    This book became very special to me. Fearless and thoughtful and real and direct and humble and endlessly encouraging. I already know I'm going to want to pick it up again and again as the world or my thoughts get too heavy. This book became very special to me. Fearless and thoughtful and real and direct and humble and endlessly encouraging. I already know I'm going to want to pick it up again and again as the world or my thoughts get too heavy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I didn’t know what to expect with this book. I’ve just read L’Engle for the first time in the last two years. I was unexpectedly moved by this mix of biography, memoir, and literary criticism (I know there’s a better word than that!). Sarah Arthur does a marvelous job of exploring Madeleine in all her complex humanity. I am often aware of my strengths and weaknesses strongly especially as I’ve learned to recognize the patterns for each, and I appreciate reading about other humans who have this s I didn’t know what to expect with this book. I’ve just read L’Engle for the first time in the last two years. I was unexpectedly moved by this mix of biography, memoir, and literary criticism (I know there’s a better word than that!). Sarah Arthur does a marvelous job of exploring Madeleine in all her complex humanity. I am often aware of my strengths and weaknesses strongly especially as I’ve learned to recognize the patterns for each, and I appreciate reading about other humans who have this same internal knowledge and struggle. Here’s a quote I love: “Rather, we allow ourselves—and the people we love—to inhabit the complex spaces of difficulty and struggle, because this is what it means to be human, to be individuals. ‘Anyone with as rich and complex an inner life as Madeleine is bound to not just run around giggling all day. Life is complicated. It’s not simple...we [must] accept that—that there are great wellsprings of joy and whole rivers of sadness, and they’re all there...’” ~201 I find it strangely appropriate that I tried reading Wrinkle as a child and couldn’t get into it. With all of the layers of that novel and its complex questions of good and evil, I simply was not mature even to take it in at any but the most basic level. I’m still working on my ability to handle the complexities that Madeleine eagerly explores in her books, but how far I have come! I am able to hold the space for sadness and complexity so much better than I used to, in my own heart and in the lives of others and in the world. Madeleine is a wonderful teacher for this, and I’m glad to have read this thoughtful exploration of her life as I continue to read more of her work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lara Krupicka

    As author Sarah Arthur says in this book, "I'm not looking for authors who merely reflect the already-cherished values and attitudes of a Christian subculture; rather, I'm looking for writers who generate art that intentionally seeks to engage, transform, and contribute to the culture at large." Madeleine L'Engle was clearly one of those writers and in this book Arthur explores the faith and spiritual journey that informed and shaped L'Engle's work. Arthur deftly combines quotes from L'Engles wr As author Sarah Arthur says in this book, "I'm not looking for authors who merely reflect the already-cherished values and attitudes of a Christian subculture; rather, I'm looking for writers who generate art that intentionally seeks to engage, transform, and contribute to the culture at large." Madeleine L'Engle was clearly one of those writers and in this book Arthur explores the faith and spiritual journey that informed and shaped L'Engle's work. Arthur deftly combines quotes from L'Engles writings and stories from those who knew her, with commentary by current writers and theologians and that of L'Engle's contemporaries, to give us a multi-dimensional picture of the author. We learn of the spiritual issues that both impassioned L'Engle and caused her to struggle. We see her flaws and her gifts exposed side by side. I love how Arthur doesn't just tell us about what she's learned of L'Engle's spiritual legacy, but she issues a call to writers and readers in every chapter to imitate the best of L'Engle's ideas and practices and to learn from her shortcomings. I came away from this book inspired to journey deeper in my own faith and art. And I longed every step of the way to go back to L'Engles books themselves to see more for myself just what this legacy is that she's left. As soon as I finished "A Light So Lovely," I picked up my favorite L'Engle book to reread it. And once I've made my way through that, undoubtedly I'll return to this book for a reminder of what to be looking for in the next L'Engle book I read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    I’ve come back to Christianity, feeling my way around, trying to figure out God’s purpose in my life now. There have been feelings of something missing and I’ve been fitting pieces back together that have been lost over the years. I’m doing this on my own terms, reading books that call to me, reading the Bible daily, studying Scripture, writing journal entries, paying attention. This book made me clearly understand how controversial faith in Christ can be, how personal it should be if we’re to h I’ve come back to Christianity, feeling my way around, trying to figure out God’s purpose in my life now. There have been feelings of something missing and I’ve been fitting pieces back together that have been lost over the years. I’m doing this on my own terms, reading books that call to me, reading the Bible daily, studying Scripture, writing journal entries, paying attention. This book made me clearly understand how controversial faith in Christ can be, how personal it should be if we’re to have a meaningful relationship. Madeleine struggled with Christianity as often as she was comforted by her faith, but that, to me, is beautiful. Life is a struggle quite often. We wrestle with so many competing ideas, philosophies, beliefs, but when we catch glimpses of grace there is joy and glimmers of understanding or aha moments shine through to fill our heart, soul, mind.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I was asked to review this book for Christianity and Literature, along with this book. Here's the review. I was asked to review this book for Christianity and Literature, along with this book. Here's the review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I knew of A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L'Engle but had no idea of the spiritual legacy her life and literary works produced. Arthur sees L'Engle as a gift to mainline Christian evangelicalism at a time when the scope of Christianity was narrowing. L'Engle's works burst onto the scene when the attitude among evangelicals was believing in faith or science. L'Engle encouraged a wonder of God in art, literature, and science. Her work was like a window to all that points to Christ, Arthur says. (1 I knew of A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L'Engle but had no idea of the spiritual legacy her life and literary works produced. Arthur sees L'Engle as a gift to mainline Christian evangelicalism at a time when the scope of Christianity was narrowing. L'Engle's works burst onto the scene when the attitude among evangelicals was believing in faith or science. L'Engle encouraged a wonder of God in art, literature, and science. Her work was like a window to all that points to Christ, Arthur says. (17) Arthur interviewed artists and friends whose lives were greatly influenced by L'Engle. I had no idea that L'Engle helped so many artists and writers see their work as a religious vocation. (22) She argued that you could be an artist and a Christian. That viewpoint was controversial at the time. Arthur covers the controversy well. Arthur surveys L'Engle's life and works. I was surprised at L'Engle's interest in Einstein and physics. No wonder she wove science into her writing. I especially appreciate L'Engle's friendship with Luci Shaw. I liked how they could “lovingly” argue within their secure friendship. I was intrigued by the claims of L'Engle critics. She was charged with universalism and promoting New Age ideas. Arthur does a great job exploring what makes a “Christian” book as well as the supposed divide between the sacred and the secular. I really like how L'Engle gave Christians freedom to use their God given imagination. We have come a long way since then. So why read a book about L'Engle now? It seems we are again in a time of division among evangelicals. Arthur points out that L'Engle offered a message of hope in a time of “wavering evangelicals and post-fundalits...” (64) Like a generation ago, we can learn today from L'Engle's legacy. May we again present a light so lovely that others will be attracted to Christ and His people. I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar. My comments are an independent and honest review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    christina

    In the new book A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, Sarah Arthur depicts a legacy that is not without complications, as was L’Engle herself. The foreword and introduction lay out the structure and organizing premise of the book, that L’Engle saw many seeming polarities as “both/and” where most would see “either/or.” Thus, we have chapter headings such as “Sacred and Secular” or “Religion and Art.” This structure suits Arthur’s subject well. Madeleine L’Engle, the writer In the new book A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, Sarah Arthur depicts a legacy that is not without complications, as was L’Engle herself. The foreword and introduction lay out the structure and organizing premise of the book, that L’Engle saw many seeming polarities as “both/and” where most would see “either/or.” Thus, we have chapter headings such as “Sacred and Secular” or “Religion and Art.” This structure suits Arthur’s subject well. Madeleine L’Engle, the writer known best for her fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time, was a mainline Episcopalian whose fiction and non-fiction reflected that bent. Her writing polarized evangelicals. The literary and visual arts community has drawn inspiration from her, especially from her non-fiction book Walking on Water. She spoke at conservative evangelical Wheaton, Calvin, and Westmont colleges, and her papers and journals are archived at Wheaton. Other evangelicals have vilified her ideas as New Age in Christian dress or even as demonic (178-181). This book acknowledges the critics in the latter camp but emphasizes the former, quoting extensively from the artists and writers L’Engle befriended, mentored, and influenced through her words. Sarah Arthur has thoroughly and closely attended to those words, not only in L’Engle’s published works but also in a number of talks (at Wheaton and Calvin Colleges, for example) available online. This book also reflects her investigation of the books and articles, both positive and negative, written about L’Engle. One of the greatest strengths of her work is the breadth and depth of interviews she conducted with L’Engle’s family, with writers like Philip Yancey who joined L’Engle in the writing group the Chrysostom Society, and with artists and writers such as Makoto Fujimura and Leif Enger (Peace Like a River). Such a collection would not be complete without quotes from her dear friends the evangelical poet Luci Shaw and Barbara Braver, the flatmate of her final years in New York. Those interviews highlight the strengths of Arthur’s subject. First, L’Engle was unique in the way she pioneered a specifically Christian union of faith, art, and science. She freed and paved the way for Christian fantasy writers like Stephen Lawhead, and string theorists have validated some of the self-taught physics behind the series beginning with A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle didn’t come to a personal faith in God through theologians but through reading theoretical physicists like Albert Einstein. “Einstein wrote that anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe and amazement at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burned-out candle,” Madeleine wrote years later. “I had found my theologian!” (100-101). For some evangelical readers, including myself, L’Engle gave too much credence to some scientific ideas and interpreted Scripture in light of them instead of vice versa, but that does not negate the significance of her accomplishment in this area. The second and most beautiful legacy portrayed here is L’Engle’s friendships and mentoring. It was her friendships, her loyal community, that saw her through the times of attack on her faith and writing. Her friendship with Luci Shaw lasted decades and survived great losses, distance, and theological differences. Shaw came to L’Engle’s bedside in the hospital after a near-fatal car accident and in her final days in a nursing home. L’Engle’s flatmate and Shaw both cherish the memories of reading Compline when they were together of an evening in L’Engle’s home. Interviews with numerous younger writers describe L’Engle’s generosity in giving her time, prayers, and advice when they sought her out after a talk on a college campus. Such talks and Walking on Water (perhaps my favorite of L’Engle’s books) have mentored 2 generations of Christian artists to date and are likely to continue bearing fruit and growing her legacy, should the Lord tarry longer. The more difficult parts of the book are those which address L’Engle’s weaknesses. This is most evident in the chapter “Fact and Fiction.” L’Engle shared perhaps too much truth about her children in the fictional but semi-autobiographical Meet the Austins series, but her family (and at times L’Engle herself) recognize that she fictionalized some of the stories in her memoirs. She had a tendency to regard the perspective in her journals as the absolute truth of an event, which could leave others feeling she rejected the validity of their differing experience of the same event. The most heartbreaking part of this whole section is the discussion of her youngest son’s death due to liver failure caused by alcohol abuse. He could never escape or live up to the pedestal his mother placed him in the fictional Rob Austin version of himself, and addiction was his response. Arthur includes an insightful and thought-provoking response from author and blogger Sarah Bessey to this tragedy: “My children need to know that they’re not copy to me. They need to know that their spiritual questions or moments or lives are not here for anyone else’s consumption.” But she also recognizes that this is hard for a lot of writers, “especially when parenting is a huge aspect of your life—a huge aspect of your own spirituality and awakening and how you understand God, how you’re moving through the world.” As with many women writers, “Faith is deeply connected to mothering for me. And how do I write about the ways mothering has been transformative, how it’s become this crucible, without turning my children themselves into content?” (164-165). These are good questions for any blogger or memoirist to ponder, and I found this whole chapter challenging. Overall, A Light So Lovely is a clear, thoughtful reflection on the impact in the kingdom of God made (and being made) through L’Engle’s life and words. Sarah Arthur has done a masterful job of gathering and organizing primary sources according to the predominant themes at play in L’Engle’s legacy. This is not a biography intended to introduce L’Engle to a reader unfamiliar with her works. Before diving into this book, I would recommend having read at least A Wrinkle in Time, Walking on Water, and The Irrational Season or Two-Part Invention from the Crosswicks Journals memoir collection. Devoted readers and L’Engle fans will find kindred spirits in this book, even though the author does not turn a blind eye to her subject’s faults.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Justin Wiggins

    I just finished reading this biography on the incredible thinker, writer, and woman of faith Madeleine L’Engle by Sarah Faulman Arthur. The book is challenging, witty, brilliant, and profoundly moving. It will be one that I re-read numerous times. This powerful book about the author of A Wrinkle In Time, Walking On Water Reflections On Faith and Art, and many other books, has given me great creative inspiration for writing, a greater passion for music, writing, literature, and art, living out my I just finished reading this biography on the incredible thinker, writer, and woman of faith Madeleine L’Engle by Sarah Faulman Arthur. The book is challenging, witty, brilliant, and profoundly moving. It will be one that I re-read numerous times. This powerful book about the author of A Wrinkle In Time, Walking On Water Reflections On Faith and Art, and many other books, has given me great creative inspiration for writing, a greater passion for music, writing, literature, and art, living out my faith, learning from people of different worldviews, and loving The Creator with all my heart, mind and soul. Thank you very much for writing this Sarah! From one writer to another, I appreciate what you do! The below quote is my favorite from the book. “So we make good art, and we hope that by doing so we have offered up an honest, well executed gift of worship to the Maker who designed us to make things. And so we share that work with our fellow readers-not just our fellow believers, but all our story-loving humans-because not only do we want them to experience our own delight in making it, but also because as people of faith, we are called to play a small part in transforming the culture in which we live. Our works become icons: windows by which others can see the “light so lovely.” And by this, we hope, lives can be changed. Including our own.”- Sarah Arthur

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christy Lindsay

    Having been enamored with A Winkle in Time ever since my mother read it aloud to me as a teen, and later as a young mother feeling comforted reading L'Engle's Crosswicks journals I eagerly read this book wanting to know more about the author who spoke to me in different seasons of my life. While Madeline was far from perfect, that is what makes her life so appealing to me. While struggling with doubt she continued to "let light in" as she faithfully proclaimed truth and participated in the spiri Having been enamored with A Winkle in Time ever since my mother read it aloud to me as a teen, and later as a young mother feeling comforted reading L'Engle's Crosswicks journals I eagerly read this book wanting to know more about the author who spoke to me in different seasons of my life. While Madeline was far from perfect, that is what makes her life so appealing to me. While struggling with doubt she continued to "let light in" as she faithfully proclaimed truth and participated in the spiritual disciplines with comforting regularity. She did not try to pretend the darkness didn't exist but met it head on, knowing that it is utterly powerless in the presence of light. She had an enormous impact on not only her readers but also other writers and thinkers. She thought deeply but wrote in a way that was accessible and memorable to children. I listened to this book on Audible, but if I had read a paper copy it would have been marked up with my books darts and many quotes copied. The author did an excellent job of telling Madeleine's story without glossing over the tough parts and also adding her own very insightful commentary. So much to think about in this book even if you haven't read any of L'Engle's writings. Although, if you haven't, you will want to after this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michele Morin

    A week of teaching children in a backyard Bible club can have a clarifying effect on one’s theology. Just exactly what is it that happened in Zaccheus’s heart when he changed from being a dirty rotten tax collector to a repentant and honorable Christ-follower? When Jesus spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus, how did he just stop believing one thing and start believing something quite the opposite? However it happened, it would appear that both of these iconic New Testament characters became rea A week of teaching children in a backyard Bible club can have a clarifying effect on one’s theology. Just exactly what is it that happened in Zaccheus’s heart when he changed from being a dirty rotten tax collector to a repentant and honorable Christ-follower? When Jesus spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus, how did he just stop believing one thing and start believing something quite the opposite? However it happened, it would appear that both of these iconic New Testament characters became really good at believing. But how to describe this in terms that are meaningful to an eight-year-old . . . ? Practice. Children know about practice, because there is so much in this world that they need to master: reading and writing; throwing a baseball into the strike zone; making a foul shot most of the time; playing scales; fingering an instrument. But it’s not only children who need practice in believing, and in A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time, Sarah Arthur has reached into the store house of accumulated wisdom from Madeleine L’Engle’s life to help readers along in the practice of believing. Always a champion of the genius of “and” — and a detractor of the tyranny of “or”– L’Engle’s life story is framed around some of the seeming contradictions she embraced in her writing as well as in her own practice of believing: Icon and Iconoclast It is ironic with her tremendous word count on the difference between idols and icons that Madeleine L’Engle managed to become both in her 88 year sojourn on this planet. As an icon, she pointed her readers’ hearts toward the God she also loved, but her prodigious output and her words of wisdom on the writing life made her, unwittingly, an idol to many. As an iconoclast, she seemed to delight in exposing the uncomfortable places around faith as she explored the troubling questions and invited everyone from the “fundalits” to the practical atheists into a reasoned and imaginative place to stand. Sacred and Secular “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (35) Madeleine’s fictional characters quoted Scripture, and she was noted in the publishing world as a “practicing Christian,” and yet A Wrinkle in Time ended up on the banned books list–as well as receiving the Newbery. She was both lionized and pilloried by both secular and sacred audiences. This must be the price for having set her sights on setting people free “from binary thinking about how God chooses to engage the world.” (45) Story and Truth Coming from a family of story tellers, story was a powerful element in L’Engle’s life, and her understanding of the Bible as truth was shaped by her gratitude that she “was able to read the Book with the same wonder and joy with which [she had] read The Ice Princess or The Tempest.” (55) She embraced passionately the idea that truth is embodied in story and lived out in our own personal narratives through our use of language and imagination. Faith and Science L’Engle readers are well-acquainted with the story of her first exposure to the night sky, being lifted from her crib and taken outside to behold the stars. She was profoundly shaped by the moment, which led to a life time of “star-gazing rocks,” and a mindset that allowed science to inform her faith and to enhance her (and her readers’!) understanding that the heavens really do declare the glory of God. Religion and Art L’Engle’s compelling plot lines carried theological questions, explored issues around the meaning of life, and in many ways, her art was the vehicle through which she worked out her own “cosmic questions.” As a mother who still finds it difficult to fit writing into my life as either a ministry or as an art form, I have been encouraged by the way she found writing to be a form of worship, a thought which has impacted my own view of writing as an offering to God. Fact and Fiction Sarah Arthur references a 2004 New Yorker profile of Madeleine L’Engle in which the memoir of her marriage (Two-Part Invention), is debunked as wishful thinking. I had also read the article, and at the time I mourned — for the loss of a beautiful story and for the sadness of L’Engle’s wanting. The fervency of her belief in the rock solidness of her marriage and the fidelity of her husband (in the face of all evidence to the contrary) communicates something of the intensity of her longing for it. Her willing embrace of a fictionalized personal reality spilled over into her mothering as well: Could her son just please stay a precocious five-year-old with an amusing vocabulary and stop being a middle-aged alcoholic with a depleted liver? Readers have a choice at this point: Let Madeleine-the-idol crash to the ground — or make of her failing an icon. My own writing and ministry life have been formed by her cautionary tale, purposefully delaying any substantive foray into writing until my children were older and forcing myself to ask hard questions before sharing my life on this country hill: Am I idealizing things here? Would my husband and kids recognize the life I’m describing? Would they recognize me? I was not prepared for my visceral response to A Light So Lovely. Reading with shallow breath and a lump in my throat, I turned pages as if reading news of a loved one, gone for a long season and greatly missed. As Meg declared in The Wind in the Door, believing does take practice. Like finger exercises on the piano, Madeleine L’Engle wrote her way toward a deep belief in some ideas that were false, but many more that were true and admirable. Drawn by her words toward the Light so lovely, let’s commit ourselves to showing up, to serving the work to which we are called, and to anchoring our souls in the practice of believing. Many thanks to Zondervan for providing this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with complete honesty.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steph Cherry

    I remember reading A Wrinkle in Time decades ago. I couldn’t tell you every detail about it. I have had a curiosity about Madeleine L’Engle that has not been indulged. When I saw this biography by Sarah Arthur, I immediately wanted to read it. The picture she put together of the depth and complexity of this woman has spoken volumes to me. Sarah not only delivered a good biography, she wrote rich words about things of faith. I have read many of Madeleine’s critics call her New Age. I just couldn’ I remember reading A Wrinkle in Time decades ago. I couldn’t tell you every detail about it. I have had a curiosity about Madeleine L’Engle that has not been indulged. When I saw this biography by Sarah Arthur, I immediately wanted to read it. The picture she put together of the depth and complexity of this woman has spoken volumes to me. Sarah not only delivered a good biography, she wrote rich words about things of faith. I have read many of Madeleine’s critics call her New Age. I just couldn’t see it. In these pages, I found out that Madeleine was a devout Anglican. She loved scripture and sacrament. Sarah’s detailing of Madeleine’s daily spiritual life made me feel the nearness of the Lord. I didn’t want it to end. It was one of those books that make you ache to put away. You can dive into the complexity of her personality and see the truth of her relationships. Her flaws are examined with grace. The lovely thing to see here is how she plumbed the depths of mercy through joy and pain. Madeleine truly was “an apologist for joy.”

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