cover image The Moment of Tenderness

The Moment of Tenderness

Madeleine L’Engle. Grand Central, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1782-0

While L’Engle (1918–2007) is best known for her 1963 Newbery Award winner A Wrinkle in Time, her work stretched across genres, as seen with this illuminating collection of mostly previously unpublished material. Organized chronologically by her granddaughter and literary executor Charlotte Jones Voiklis, the book traces L’Engle’s progression as a writer of short stories for adults. Beginning with autobiographical works, some of them college assignments featuring young female narrators struggling with murky emotions, the collection moves toward more plotted narratives, closing with several ambitious tales that occasionally lead into supernatural or speculative territory, such as “The Fact of the Matter,” “Poor Little Saturday,” and “A Sign for a Sparrow,” about a cryptologist in the 22nd century, which is rooted in the intersection of science and religion that distinguished much of L’Engle’s work. Unswerving throughout is L’Engle’s mastery of mood-setting language and her depiction of the complexity of human relationships. Voiklis’s illuminating introduction places many of the stories in the context of L’Engle’s life and points out those that were reworked and integrated into her later novels. The book will obviously attract L’Engle aficionados, but the thoughtful selection and organization recommends the volume to anyone curious about a writer’s evolution. Agent: Lisa Vance/Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency. (Apr.)