A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle

Wisdom, happiness, freedom and lots of other things are so desirable that we pursue them purely for themselves, though they are only attainable as means or by-products of our other, less tempting goals. They are like unexpected guests who come and go and never stay for long. The more one is trying to take hold of them, the more elusive and annoyed they become. So, when wisdom is the main goal in the story (or life) and everything else is subdued to it, there is a chance of converting a novel into sermon and excitement into dullness, by leaving out the alluring fuel that is made of inner conflicts, trials, transforming dialogue between the characters and their circumstances. To a moderate degree this happened to A Severed Wasp.

A retired piano virtuoso returns to her birthplace to find solace, but bumps into an old acquaintance that needs her help. Between warm baths, herbal tea rituals and neck massages she finds the time to heat up her experience-made pot and pour the wisdom among the thirsty gathering that loiters around. She becomes a sage for the church congregation, a mentor to their prodigal children and a prosecutor of the mischief among them. Former pop star, reminiscences of Nazism and homophobic calls mingle in.

What makes the plot bizarre is the fact that it is a sequel to Little rain, a simple novel written around fifty years earlier, that resembles any other coming-of-age book. The author and protagonist surely have matured; the youthful determination and sincerity that made the prequel somewhat bearable have been replaced with stiffness and versatile plot twists that the protagonist, like god, straightens out with her magical touch. The old age seems to smooth the strains and edges like rivers do with pebbles. Unfortunately, the fun is not so much in the final result as it is in transformation.

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