Certain Women

Emma Wheaton has interrupted her successful stage career to attend to her dying father—the legendary screen actor David Wheaton. As the master performer grapples with an obsession over the one great role that has eluded him—that of the biblical King David—Emma confronts both the painful and healing memories of her tumultuous past. The stories of these two Davids and the women in their lives are simultaneously woven together and unraveled in a narrative rich in theatrical tradition and archetypal wisdom. In Certain Women, Madeleine L’Engle gives us an unforgettable portrait of the private struggles and blessings of family life.

Originally published in 1992

Genre: Adult fiction

Certain Women


“[This] is novel-as-exegesis. L’Engle wants to examine problems from the Old Testament in a modern text. She wants to look at love and war and marriage and divorce–and death–within a biblical framework. I would imagine she is advising us–as modern agnostics perhaps–not to be too hasty in separating ourselves from the Judeo-Christian ethic that informs so many of our attitudes and opinions.”
– Carolyn See, LA Times, 1992

“L’Engle describes complex truths very simply, pointing out, for instance, that “Life hurts” and that if there’s “no agony, there’s no joy.” Because she also details the emotional cost of discovering and accepting such concepts, many readers will find these observations memorable rather than simplistic. Appropriate for all but the smallest general collections.
– Jane S. Bakerman, Library Journal, 1992

“This book is an example of Madeleine L’Engle’s penchant for creating intensely detailed, insular worlds that, on the surface seem so capable of being real but are truly populated by people that are unimaginably gracious, talented, dedicated, polite, interesting, and graceful.”
– Jes Phillips, Goodreads, 2008

“The author Madeleine L’Engle is probably most familiar to readers for her acclaimed Time Quartet of science fiction books for children, including the Newbery award-winning A Wrinkle in Time. However, if you haven’t picked up a L’Engle novel since you had your braces removed, you’re missing out. Her books for adults, including 1992’s Certain Women, contain the same lyrical prose and incisive characterization, combined with mature spiritual sensitivity, and have the same ability to transport the reader into her imagined world.”
– ‘Geek Goddess,’ Amazon, 2007