This collection of short stories traces an emotional arc inspired by the A Wrinkle in Time author's early life and career, from her lonely childhood in New York to her life as a mother in small-town Connecticut.
Taken together and arranged largely chronologically (both in terms of when they were written and the protagonists’ advancing ages), the stories are more postcards from a writer’s beginnings and her artistic, spiritual and emotional evolution than full-fledged narratives in their own right ... In some stories, the philosophical and uncanny are tethered to the ocean and the cosmos. Some of the earlier stories read more like fragments and incidents than complete narratives. In L’Engle’s parlance, they appear to the reader like stars. They flicker, not fully visible, but stirring nonetheless ... reflects not only L’Engle’s growth as a writer but her search for her own personal philosophy, one that ultimately recognized opportunity and authenticity in nonconformity. When encountered in this particular moment, her comfort with duality — with writing for children and adults, joining realism and fantasy, science and theology — evokes nostalgia for a time when science and religion were not so regularly and blatantly weaponized for political ends. The label of 'New Age' be damned, L’Engle shared with her readers her great capacity for wonder, and her refreshingly earnest desire to tunnel deep inside the human heart and expose its power to generate and regenerate hope and love — even in the face of eviscerating darkness.
... offer[s] sharp slices of the midcentury American zeitgeist, when certain possibilities for women were just beginning to open up. L’Engle here enters the territory of such masters of the form as Alice Munro, John O’Hara and John Cheever ... Some of the stories are so affecting that it is surprising they did not find publication in L’Engle’s lifetime ... many people may think of L’Engle as a children’s author or a science fiction writer, or both. The engaging stories in The Moment of Tenderness collectively offer a different, fuller view of this talented master.
... while this book of short stories strays from her typical genres and forms (primarily novels and books of nonfiction), it still feels very L’Engle: illuminating in the face of tenebrosity. Fans of L’Engle’s work will adore this collection for several reasons. For one, it shows the upward trajectory of her skill as a writer ... Yet it is fascinating and worthwhile to read all of them, even the first few that are her earliest. The Moment of Tenderness will also be of interest for L’Engle-lovers because of its occasional overlap with the author’s personal life ... The stories are not perfect, craft-wise, because they were unpublished manuscripts ... Still, the stories reveal that even in her youth, L’Engle was a master. Her prose is brilliant—straightforward, emotive, and lovely to the ear when read aloud ... Although many of the characters make morally questionable choices, their fallibility, and L’Engle’s deft and generous portrayals, make them understandable.