Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Live Coal in the Sea

A Live Coal In The Sea by Madeleine L'Engle
Read: 5/25/09-6/1/09
LibraryThing tags: Identity, Redemption, Grace, Family, Dysfunction, Suffering, SLOBS

Madeleine L'Engle was born in 1918 and this book was published in 1996, making her 78 years old at the time (or 77 more likely -- she was born late in the year, like me), and it shows -- in a good way. I have never before read a book that dealt with so much family melodrama, dysfunction, and pain in such a calm, level-headed, mature way. It was truly impressive. It's contemporary adult fiction by the way, a little rare for her. But unlike most contemporary adult non-genre fiction I've read, it's actually worth reading! It's easy to tell from what I've read of A Circle of Quiet and what I've heard about Madeleine L'Engle from other people that there are large autobiographical elements, although it's certainly fiction still. The wisdom and experience of her 77 years (or however many when she was actually writing it) permeate the pages. I noticed some of the reviewers on LibraryThing didn't like the ending, which irked me a bit, since I thought it was beautiful and the book would probably have become meaningless without it. I can sort of see why some people might not -- one element, or at least the foreshadowing and preparation for one element, seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. But in general it was masterfully done.

I loved the title. Don't read this part if you're a stickler about any kind of spoiler, because you don't discover the meaning of the title until 167 pages in. On the other hand, it is the title, it's from a fifteenth-century quotation, and if it were me, I probably would have placed the quotation as an epigraph at the very beginning of the book. But the process of discovery of the meaning of the book is certainly interesting too, so I can see why it's on page 167, and maybe you shouldn't read this. You decide; here it is, quoted from William Langland: "But all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea." Isn't that beautiful?

No comments :