The Red Couch: The Irrational Season Introduction



Madeleine L’Engle may be best known for her fiction, but she has a rather impressive body of nonfiction books as well–the Crosswicks Journal books chief among them. The four books cover a variety of topics ranging from motherhood to loss. The Irrational Season is the third book in the collection and it deals with these same topics through the lens of the church calendar.

The first chapter meets us in Advent, then cycles through L’Engle’s reflections on Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and so on.

Today is Epiphany. (Chapter 4 in the book.) I am still new to the church calendar and there are many holidays I know little to nothing about. I grew up in mostly non-denominational churches but something about liturgy always resonated with me. There’s something in the tradition and the rhythm, something about knowing people have been observing these holy days for centuries.

Epiphany marks the twelfth day after Christmas and celebrates the wise men’s visit. Many churches mark this celebration with a feast. Whether or not you observe Epiphany, we will be feasting on L’Engle’s words in the coming month.

L’Engle’s writing means so much to so many. It is layered with depth and nuance. It allows for doubt and calls forth grace and trust. It honors the everyday.

The structure of The Irrational Season follows the church calendar, but this is more of a leaping pad for L’Engle to muse about her marriage, giving birth, motherhood, and work. Sprinkled in between these thoughts are her poems.

It may surprise you to learn your Red Couch Editor finished reading this book just in time to write this post. In fact, I haven’t read any of this year’s selections yet. I want to experience as many of them in real time with you all as possible. (This will be eased by the addition of several contributors, who will take over most of the introductory posts hereon out.)

Every one of our selections existed on my lengthy To Read list or were added in short order once a team member nominated it. I believe strongly in each book we selected. There is a lot for us to learn and discuss about each one. You may not end up loving each book, but I believe each one will change you in the best of ways.

Case in point.

I did not love The Irrational Season. This is a risky admission. I have adored L’Engle’s writing ever since I stumbled across A Wrinkle In Time as a young girl. I have heard rave reviews about The Crosswicks Journal for several years. I expected to love this one.

But a few pages in, I realized the problem. Every friend who raved about The Crosswicks Journal is married and a mother. It is no wonder they viscerally related to L’Engle’s words. It is no wonder I did not.

Now I hasted to add there is much I can learn from someone’s thoughts about being married and a mother. I do not shy away from reading on these topics, but I am also mindful about when I do so. I am keenly aware of my singleness during the holidays and as such, I try to avoid anything that reminds me of it.

But. I’m the editor of this book club. And I was slated to write the introduction, so I persevered.

You know what? It was worth it. Even though I muttered to myself in places (she didn’t feel she was an adult until she got married at age 27?!), the rich insights were there. What she wrote about community in chapter 10 resonated deeply. “A family with closed doors is not a family.” YES, Madeleine! Though it will never be a favorite of mine, I could finally see why my friends loved this book.

I can see why it will provide us with good discussion at the end of this month.

I suppose this is my hope for you, dear Red Couch readers. Even if you think a book isn’t for you, try it anyway. Even if you rub up against ideas you don’t agree with, keep pressing on. We need to hear your thoughts, too. I never want this group to become a vacuum of echoing voices. I want our discussion to be deep and respectful and nuanced. I want us to teach each other.

Wherever this finds you, read on.

Come back Wednesday, Jan. 27 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.

Our March book is Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

A Circle of Quiet– Madeleine L’Engle

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother– Madeleine L’Engle

Two-Part Invention: The Story Of A Marriage– Madeleine L’Engle

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways Of Meeting God– Lauren Winner

Found: A Story Of Questions, Grace, And Everyday Prayer– Micha Boyett

The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year– Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace– Anne Lamott

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy & “Women’s Work”– Kathleen Norris

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World Emily Freeman

At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time Sarah Arthur

*Recommended by Leigh Kramer, Sarah Caldwell, and Annie Rim


Are you reading The Irrational Season with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

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