As I mentioned, I recently found out that Madeleine L'Engle passed away in September. She was a gifted, prolific, and multi-faceted author whose works spanned many genres, decades, and subject matter.
Most of us probably know her best for writing A Wrinkle in Time and her other sci-fi/fantasy, "children's" novels. When I was in middle school and high school I read all of her novels that I could find (although looking back, I think maybe I could have looked harder), but it wasn't until I was in college that I discovered she was also a Christian scholar and was famous in certain circles for writing theological non-fiction.
At first I was surprised by this (which is kind of funny because my favorite novel of hers is Many Waters, which is based on the biblical story of Noah and the Ark, which might have been a clue), but as I went back and re-read some of her novels (and as I continued my study of literature) I became aware of how many biblical references and Christian themes her novels contained. It's not allegory, and it's far subtler than, say, The Chronicles of Narnia, but if it's true that "where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found" then God can be found in all of her novels, even those without overtly religious themes or characters.
Madeleine L'Engle has had a profound influence on my personal beliefs, including but not limited to my religious beliefs. When I had difficulty finding friends among my peers, I found friends among her characters, who discussed questions and problems that had troubled me all my life and suggested answers that I had never thought of but that made perfect sense. Just as one example, when I read House Like a Lotus when I was a freshman in high school, I was put off by the presence of prominent lesbian characters in the novel, but when I had to deal with a family member's coming out a couple years later, remembering the other characters' acceptance in that novel helped me to come to terms with it.
In a society that often seeks to build walls and divide people and ideas, Madeleine L'Engle sought to build bridges and connect them. In a society that often sees science and religion as two hopelessly disparate and opposing philosophies, Madeleine L'Engle portrayed them as a harmonious whole. Her fiction spans many different genres and almost defies classification, yet many of her characters recur in seemingly unrelated stories and interconnect them. Her characters seek to understand, embrace, and integrate all different cultures and beliefs.
And indeed, she was more successful in forging connections than I would ever have suspected; I learned of her death from reading an editorial comic strip by Bruce Tinsley, a conservative cartoonist with whom I would never have suspected to share a favorite author. That said, I do have to say that while Mr. Tinsley wrote a very lovely dedication to Ms. L'Engle in his strip, I did take issue with the strip itself which implied that A Wrinkle in Time is a better novel, or at least a more worthwhile read, than the entire Harry Potter series. I just think that's silly; I can't imagine what criteria you could possibly use to evaluate which is the better book/series. Moreover, I love J.K. Rowling for a lot of the same reasons that I love Madeleine L'Engle: they both write intelligent, thought-provoking stories that are marketed toward children but accessible to everyone. Their themes are clear but not so obvious as to be insulting, their plotlines are suspenseful and compelling, and their characters are sympathetic and lovable. I would certainly recommend Madeleine L'Engle to anyone who likes J.K. Rowling, and vice versa.
So thank you, Madeleine L'Engle. Requiem aeternam, and a ring of endless light shine perpetually upon you.