Meg came home from school to find Charles Wallace looking even worse than usual, and telling her that there were dragons in the garden. He had started elementary school, and was bullied every day, but he was looking more unhealthy than just bullying would account for. And he insisted that the dragons were real. Meg argued with him out of concern for him, but he said the real problem was his mitochondria. Actually, his farandolae, which are genetically independent creatures that provide energy for mitochondria, just as mitochondria are genetically independent bacteria that provide energy to our cells. Charles Wallace seemed to be able to read thoughts if Meg or their mother was not careful about them, and he had gathered that his biologist mother had been working really hard at the lab recently because she though that maybe his farandolae were sick and that was what was causing his slow decline in health. To top this all off, the snake at the rock wall that they named Louise had gotten excited, the dog started barking, and Charles Wallace found actual, physical dragon feathers.
Meg questioned her mother about what Charles Wallace had said but she would not say much. At dinner she found out that their father, who had been called away on important science business for the government a few weeks ago, was investigating the rip in space that had just been seen with the new, sensitive instruments. Apparently several stars had simply vanished, without any conversion of mass into energy or anything. Charles Wallace showed his dragon feather to the twins, who noted that it could not be a bird’s feather because the racchis was not right, and besides, it was kind of metallic. After Charles Wallace went to bed, she went outside, where she found the elementary school principle, Mr. Jenkins looking for her. She did not have a good relationship with him, and was surprised that he had come to her house. She was even more surprised when the normally placid Louise hissed at him, and he grew wings, flew into the sky, leaving only a bad odor. At that point her boyfriend Calvin came ran over to her and held her. Charles Wallace came out of bed, having felt her fear, and he found his dragons standing a short distance off in the forest.
A man who moved like he was used to less gravity introduced himself as Blajeny, their Teacher. He introduced the dragon (singular) as a cherubim named Proginoskes. (Proginoskes insisted that he was a singular cherubim, despite cherubim being the plural. He also insisted on being called his proper name, and in general was fairly formal in demeanor.) Meg assumed he was Charles Wallace’s teacher so that he did not have to go to the public school and get beat up, but Blajeny said (and Charles Wallace concurred) that he would have to adapt; organisms that cannot adapt die. No, Blajeny was the teacher for the four of them (Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, and Proginoskes). Their lessons would not be formal ones. In fact, Meg’s lessons consisted of three trials, and part of the trials were that she had to discover what the trials were. But she would be paired with Proginoskes, who would help her. Meg asked what would happen if she failed, and Blajeny recommended that she not think of that, while Proginoskes covered his eyes with several wings in horror. They went back to the house, where they found their mother chatting with Dr. Louise (the namesake of the snake), who had become more convinced about the existence of farandolae.
In the morning Meg met Proginoskes as they had arranged. Proginoskes surmised that, as a Namer, if he had been assigned with Meg, that meant she probably was a Namer, too. He explained that a Namer is someone who’s gift is enabling people to be more of themselves, just like Calvin helped her be more of herself. Sort of the opposite of Mr. Jenkins, who always took her the wrong way. The cherubim stopped alertly when she talked about him, feeling something. After some questioning, she said that she had seen Mr. Jenkins the previous night, not acting like himself, and then flying away into a rip into the sky. Proginoskes was sure that she had seen an Ecthroi, and kind of whimpered to himself, complaining that he was not ready for that, that he never wanted to come to a shadowed planet, couldn’t he just learn the names of stars again or something. Recovering, he took Meg into yesterday (there was not enough time before breakfast to take her today), kything memories out of her mind, and finding that the equations her father had been writing on the tablecloth before he had left spelled out “echtroi” in Greek letters. (Kything is sort of like shared thinking, which is how cherubim communicate. He noted that Meg seemed to have a distinct talent for it, even though she was human.) He was also convinced that their first trial was to speak with Mr. Jenkins.
Meg got off the bus early and went to her old elementary school with Proginoskes an unmaterialized shimmer beside her. She found Mr. Jenkins in the parking lot as she arrived. In fact, she found three Mr. Jenkins, and they were arguing with each other what to do about Charles Wallace, only the argument seemed to be aimed at persuading her. Proginoskes kythed to her that this must be the first test, to Name the real Mr. Jenkins. Meg tried to get him to do it, but since she was the only one who know the real Mr. Jenkins, she was the only one who could do it. He told that she only needed to love him to find the real Mr. Jenkins. Not the confusing kind of love like she had with Calvin, the other kind. She tried to protest that she could not do it, that she hated him (she had many visits to his office during elementary school due to her stubbornness at not wanting to learn useless things like the imports and exports of Nicaragua) but the cherubim told her that if she failed, he, too failed. And if they failed, he must X himself—nothingness himself like the Echtroi nothingnessed the stars in the gap she had witnessed in the memory Proginoskes showed her. To X himself was better than to be Xed by the Echtroi, to be un-Named. He told her there was a war in heaven, which would only be over when everyone in the universe was Named, was known and loved.
The three Mr. Jenkins argued, and Jenkins Two and Three started telling her ways they could help Charles Wallace if she chose Two (or Three, depending). Jenkins One seemed annoyed about the whole thing and mystified that she had to choose. Meg argued some more over having to choose with Proginoskes, and then when Charles Wallace showed up with Louise the Larger around his neck (they could bring a pet to school), having been thrown out of class for bringing a pet which terrified everyone (only the girls, he said), she tried to get Louise to decide for her. But she was running out of time. Proginoskes encouraged her to find something to love about Mr. Jenkins, and she remembered how Calvin had said that Mr. Jenkins had bought him shoes, since his family was too poor to get him good ones. Then she moved into a place without feelings—the cherubim had told her love was not a feeling (cherubim could not feel), it was something she did. And she saw that Jenkins Three was too powerful to have been demoted to a small elementary school for not being able to control a school, and Jenkins Two just wanted to make everyone happy. She Named Jenkins One. The other two shrieked away, and Jenkins One fainted as the cherubim materialized (“mattered” as he said) in front of him. (When Cherubim matter—take on matter, flesh—they look like feathered dragons with many eyes, they do not get a choice, just as Meg did not get a choice on how she mattered.)
Blajeny told Meg he was proud of her, then he took Proginoskes and her to Metron Ariston, along with Mr. Jenkins who eventually decided he should come with Meg rather than going back to school, since she had Named him and all. Metron Ariston turned out to not actually be a place, per se, but an idea, a construct. In this idea they could be any size and every size. After some more complaining by both Meg and Mr. Jenkins (although Meg was growing in love for Mr. Jenkins), they met a mouse-like creature named Sporos. He was a farandola, born just yesterday, and not very happy at being paired with a human (Calvin). He was a bit surprised that the planets in their star system did not communicate; on Blajeny’s home system where Soros had been all his life (all one day of it) the planets were constantly talking to each other—perhaps a little too often in his thinking. But to never be a part of the world around you seemed lonely to Sporos.
Farandola are as small compared to a mitochondrion as a mitochondrion is to a human, yet in Metron Ariston they seemed to have not changed any size at all. After being driven out of Mr. Jenkins, the Ecthroi had intensified their attack on Charles Wallace, who collapsed after having been driven home from school, and had to be carried to bed by their mother. There was not much time, so after a quick explanation from Blajeny by means of Meg to Mr. Jenkins about what a farandola was, they left to go to one of Charles Wallace’s mitochondria, to overcome the Ecthroi, who wanted to un-Name and extinguish all of creation.
Sporos was only a day old but he was almost an adult, and about ready to Deepen, to take root and become more like a tree than a scampering mouse (not that there is really shape in a mitochondrion), but the Ecthroi were convincing young farandolae to stay independent and not deepen, which then kills their human host from lack of energy. Meg’s job was to kythe all this and what was going on to Mr. Jenkins, which was difficult since he was not good at kything or imagining things, or really anything else other than being at his safe job as a failure. When Meg reached out for him a second time, she got an Ecthros-Jenkins instead, which tried to X her. Proginoskes got a bunch of young farandolae to tickle the Ecthros, which surprised him into letting go of Meg. Unfortunately, the farandolae could not survive, and they Xed themselves. Proginoskes was amazed, for not only does “he know the stars by name” but also the farandolae, implying that Xing oneself perhaps not an ending but a beginning or transition.
Meg reached out (metaphorically, as she did not have hands, per se, being the size of a farandola) for Mr. Jenkins, knowing him as Named, unique, loved, and felt his hand, clammy with fear. The Ecthroi were trying to persuade the farandolae, of whom Sporos seemed to be a leader, that they would lose their freedom by deepening. Instead, they danced around the deepened farandolae (called fara), sucking it dry of life. They tried to persuade Sporos to deepen, but he would have none of it, and they danced faster and wilder, while the Ecthroi said that only in nothingness is there contentment. Meg threw herself at the fara, loving it and giving it herself, and it recovered (the second test), but Meg was being Xed. Mr. Jenkins held her and loved her back, and then he was surrounded by Ecthroi-Jenkins and being Xed. She knew what she had to do, but she was afraid of the pain of being Xed. Still, she went to him and loved him, filling the nothingness of the Ecthroi, but it was not enough, and Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Jenkins were all being Xed until Proginoskes Xed himself, giving himself completely to fill the void of the Ecthroi, naming them and filling them with himself.
Then they were in Charles Wallace’s room, with his mother and Dr. Louise Colubra, and a much healthier-looking Charles Wallace. Charles Wallace had said that Meg was in his mitochondria, but the twins refused to believe such nonsense, even though Meg said that she had been. But when Mr. Jenkins—who they knew to be anything but imaginative—said that Meg was right and that he had been with her, they simply stared in astonished disbelief. And when Meg and Calvin came back from a walk, the door blew violently open of its own accord, suggesting that Proginoskes, who Blajeny said sometimes manifested as wind or flame, had not ceased to exist.
A Wind in the Door is the second in the series that A Wrinkle in Time started. Meg seems a little more confident, and is definitely forced to grow in love. Apart from that, the book seems like it is mostly philosophical exposition by means of Meg trying to get out of learning to love the unlovable. Sadly, that’s everyone’s story, although not the most exciting reading unless you are into introspection. Still, everything is completely unexpected—surreal, even—so you certainly find yourself interested in what will happen next. L'Engle also gives a Narnia-style window into the Christian life and into the quality of life in the spiritual world, looking forward to what we will experience in Heaven. In particular, a deep connectedness transcending location. So while it is a surreal read with lots of teenage petulance, it is also an opportunity for thoughtful reflection on life.