“The Moment of Tenderness,” by Madeleine L'Engle (Grand Central Publishing)
“The Moment of Tenderness” gifts readers with a new batch of stories from the late Madeleine L’Engle, beloved bestselling author of “A Wrinkle in Time.”
Discovered and compiled by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, the stories range widely in plot, from a girl being bullied at summer camp to a married woman in love with her children’s doctor to an embarrassed daughter resisting her mother’s mandate that she wear her glasses in public.
While L’Engle didn’t intend these stories to unite in a single collection, they feel bound together by her unique and powerful tone, which seems to split her characters wide open to expose their raw humanity and allows one story to effortlessly flow into the next.
Fans of “A Wrinkle in Time” and other L’Engle favorites will find in “The Moment of Tenderness” something new. While L’Engle has published books in many genres, even Voiklis wrote that it took her time to confirm that some of these stories were indeed written by her grandmother, considering their stark differences from some of her more famous works.
While they lack a certain whimsy one may expect from L’Engle, these stories are lovely in their own right. There is beauty in their simplicity and intrigue in the depth of the characters’ pain — feelings that Voiklis writes should give us all a glimpse into some of L’Engles own struggles.
There is even wonder in the feeling of incompleteness that lingers at the end of many of the stories. Perhaps some were indeed incomplete, but perhaps L’Engle merely desired to produce slices of life, ones that do not offer exact answers or unrealistically neat endings.
These stories, all but one written before “A Wrinkle in Time,” are organized in chronological order, an effort by Voiklis to help the reader see her grandmother’s growth as a writer over the two or so decades they were written. Some stories, Voiklis writes, L’Engle wrote for college creative writing classes. One even had a letter grade (A-) and a teacher’s comments scribbled across it.
Those comments were not left in for the readers to experience, but knowing they were once there pleasantly evokes the image of a young L’Engle scrawling away, oblivious of the writer she would soon become.