As many of you know the new movie adaption of A Wrinkle in Time is set up to be released next year, so out of excitement I decided to reread Madeleine L’Engle’s books because I am a big fan. I then realized I hadn’t ever gotten around to read Many Waters for some reason and was a little shocked I never did so since the story revolves around Sandy and Dennys Murry.
As mentioned above the story revolves around Sandy and Dennys Murry, the two self proclaimed normal of the Murry children in comparison of the prodigies of Meg and Charles Wallace. When they return home one winter afternoon and go into their parent’s personal lab both Sandy and Dennys are transported to the time of Noah and the ark. Reading this book actually reminded me a lot of the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis which was a science fiction series from a Christian perspective that all other creatures in the universe were aware of the existence of God and the universe beyond them.
Spoilers from this point on, I’m running out of witty things to type in the bold text.
Unlike the adventures of their siblings Sandy and Dennys are not as adventure ready as readers would believe. For one thing when exposed to the desert climate both Sandy and Dennys suffer from a heat stroke and spend the first half of the book recovering from severe sunburns. At the same time it separates both twins from each other allowing both of them to realize their own personal individual traits that they had never realized about themselves due to always being with each other.
Along with their own self discovery that both twins aren’t completely like each other Sandy and Dennys begin to realize there is more to them besides being the ‘normal ones’ that they had always called themselves. Dennys has a very strong understanding of the experiments that both his parents perform and the science that Mr and Mrs Murry research and experiment with. In comparison to the adventures of Meg and Charles Wallace, Sandy and Dennys spend significantly more time on their adventure while Meg and Charles Wallace on technicality devoted a few hours to their own adventures (time travel kind of makes it hard to determine who spent the most time on their adventure).
As mentioned earlier the book takes place during the time of Noah before the days of the great flood. The great flood itself plays a minor role in the story for the first three quarters of the book with major focus being on Sandy, Dennys, Noah’s family and the works of the Seraphim and Nephilim. There is also another tribe of not so nice people who are envious to Noah’s tribe, one of these characters is named Tiglah.
I want to talk about Tiglah in this review mainly to compare the style of YA writing from when this book was published and how Tiglah would be viewed now. Many Waters was published in 1986 where it was more or less it was frowned upon to be sexually active and open about it as a teenager in the media. In this book Tiglah is in love with one of the Nephilim (fallen Seraphim) and does his bidding for him at one point trying to seduce Sandy and Dennys because the Nephilim are wary of them.
Throughout the book I felt very sorry for Tiglah and constantly hoped that she would be redeemed; it wasn’t her fault that she ended up this way and clearly she didn’t think that her sexual nature was a bad thing. She admits to genuinely caring about both Sandy and Dennys and hoping that things go well for them as the great flood begins and it is heavily implied that she drowns in the great flood for her ways.
I think if Tiglah were a character in a modern YA book she would have had more depth to her explored; she may have even been given her own character development and realize that the Nephilim don’t care for her and at least leave her wicked family and ask Noah and his family to give her refuge and teach her to be good.
Tiglah is also called a slut by Sandy when she tries to convince him to give her his virginity, something that wouldn’t sit well with modern readers (okay more than likely the christian audience would be okay with that.)
To contrast Tiglah there is Yalith, one of the daughters of Noah; Yalith is essentially a Pure Mary Sue. She is good and kind to all she meets, she nurses Dennys back to health, rejects a Nephilim who claims to be in love with her, convinces the Seraphim to love her (platonically) and is stuck in a love triangle with Sandy and Dennys eventually admitting that she is in love with both of them and it is the mutual love between herself and Sandy that Sandy decides not to have sex with Tiglah. When the issue comes around that Noah can only take his sons and their wives onto the arc and Yalith must be left behind, it is discovered that Yalith is so pure, she can be given a free pass into heaven body and soul because she’s that pure.
I don’t hate the character of Yalith, but it just annoyed me at times at how she’s presented as the most pure thing in the world and everyone must love her unconditionally. Okay that’s enough ranting about Tiglah and Yalith.
Concerning the story itself it was very interesting at how ideas and themes presented in the book are actually a very big deal for some people today. One issue frequently brought up is Sandy’s agnostic views and how he needs to “see it to believe it.” At first he treats the story of Noah and the Ark as the equivalent of Norse and Greek mythology, stories told to people that aren’t true, of course with L’Engle being a religious woman, Sandy does believe in unicorns (there is no way I can cover the topic of the importance of unicorns in this book and keep the review brief), but this belief is a result of seeing a unicorn and then believing they are real.
Sandy also points out in annoyance how many of the women he met on this journey are adapted out of the Bible because the Bible was written by men who viewed the male presence as more important than the female presence.
Along with this Sandy has comparisons with the unkind people who aren’t part of Noah’s family and terrorists who hijack planes, which in today’s world is a very scary reality that has happened more and more regularly with new forms of shock and horror.
I’ll end this review by saying that parts of it did hit close to home, particularly since during my time reading this my dad was in the hospital (he is fine and recovering) and one of the biggest plot threads in the book is Noah and his relationship with his dying father Lamech.
I give Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle three out of five cute mini mammoths.
Also small announcement and explanation for things; I will participate in Write a Novel in November this year, so this blog post was partially for me to see if I can write 1667 words in a day. It is something I’ve considered participating in and I hope I can pull it off. This review was 1293 words long meaning I clearly have some improving to do, but book reviews and amount of words written in a day are two very different things. Wish me luck, my theme for this novel will be…mermaids.