She looks back on her childhood and growing up years as an only child of parents who were very cosmopolitan and well-travelled. She laments the fact that she can no longer communicate with her mother as she once did while having morning-long talks over coffee at the kitchen table.
She has to come to terms with the fact that after her mother's death, she's now the 'matriarch' of the family clan; a role she doesn't want but has to accept.
Here's a quote from the book about one thing that formed who she became as an adult. "School was mostly something to be endured; I don't think I learned nearly as much from my formal education as from the books I read instead of doing homework, the daydreams which took me on exciting adventures in which I was intrepid and fearless and graceful, the stories Mother told me, and the stories I wrote. It was in my solitudes that I had a hand in the making of the present Madeleine."
I agree with her, because that is also my experience. I've learned so much more out of school than in. Only in solitude can I work out solutions to problems, think in peace, and be creative.
If you've never read any of her books, I highly recommend them. She's probably best known for A Wrinkle in Time. I prefer her non-fiction. She was also a writer of spiritual books. In the above mentioned book, she was struggling with who God is and traditional religion, but later on she became much stronger in her faith.
*The lady in the photo isn't Madeleine L'Engle, she's an ancestor of mine, Lydia Walker.