Book Review: An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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2 out of 5 Stars

Up until this book I really liked what the editors have titled “The Wrinkle in Time Quintet”. I loved reading “A Wrinkle in Time” and “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” and thought “A Wind in the Door” was alright too. When I started reading this I realize I missed reading the 4th book in the series “Many Waters” when the story picked up with Polly O’Keefe being in high school. The last I had read of her was when her mom was pregnant with her, so this threw me off. I started off a little confused since I thought I grabbed book 4. This is actually book 5 in the series.

This review will contain spoilers, so I want to get that out of the way right now. I can’t think of another way to talk about my opinion without using spoilers, so please be warned.

Our story starts off with Polly, who is now part of a very large family and can’t understand why her mother, Meg, keeps having children. Her family has lived in some very remote places and the schools aren’t living up to what she, a very “smart” girl needs. She has moved in with her grandparents to get a better education and to learn more science from them. They are getting older and are tickled pink that their granddaughter has come to live with them. In fact they were so excited that they re-did a room a few years earlier, to her exact taste even though they didn’t know this was going to happen. We are reintroduced to favorite places like the Star Watching Rock and various people like Louise the Larger and her namesake Dr. Louise. We also meet the good doctor’s brother who is a Bishop who has moved back to town.

In the first chapter Polly is out for a walk on the property when a boy comes looking for her. He is called Zachary Gray and he drove across the country and then got a job nearby so he could see Polly again after meeting her in Greece the summer before. He is in college and really wants to have a relationship with her even though it sounds like she isn’t overly keen on the idea but keeps arranging to see him. And it seems her family is totally keen on the idea of her having an older suitor coming round all of the time. It turns out he has a heart condition due to rheumatic fever he contracted when he was young and his prognosis is weighing heavy on him. In fact he calls her to tell her he has hurt every single person he has brought into his life, and he is going to hurt her even though he is really going to try not to, but she doesn’t need to see him even though he really wants to be in her life. That whole chapter would send most people running the other way. Not Polly. She arranges to see him again. Meanwhile they have seen various people on the property that have been dressed like “people from 3,000 years ago” and look “exotic”. Polly mentions not only to Zachary, but her grandparents, Dr. Louise and her brother that she went back in time 3,000 years and met these same people in their time. It is explained by the Bishop that these people are druids and the native people who lived on the land 3,000 years ago. Despite the constant time travel and tesseracts the family has experienced, NOBODY else believes her except the Bishop who is also spending so much time with the people he has learned their languages and customs and has saved their lives.

Finally Polly is banned from walking around the property just in case what she is saying is true. Zachary decides that people 3,000 years ago will be able to heal him better than the modern doctors and he forces her to take him back 3,000 years so they can fix his heart. The Bishop is already trapped there and the People Across the Lake are attacking the People of the Wind (who we met in book 3) because the POTW have everything and the PATL have nothing. This eventually leads to Polly being kidnapped by the PATL due to Zachary. He gives her up to the tribe for sacrifice so it will rain and they will fix his heart because the tribe is desperate for the rain. She tries to save him throughout the book despite all of the terrible things he does to her. It is like someone trapped in an abusive relationship. She won’t leave him because she thinks he will change. It all ends up that the rains come in just in time to save her, the time gate reopens, Zachary’s heart is healed, and once everyone is safely back in modern times Zachary asks if he can keep seeing Polly. She finally says no.

This whole book bothered me on so many levels. It was a fast read and I decided to finish it hoping for some sort of redemption. I never got it. I was left never wanting to read another of her books. Upon a bit of research I realized there were several other books that talk more about what Polly’s life was like before she went to her grandparents. I am not sure if that understanding would help me feel more empathy toward Polly or not.

I just had so many issues with this book:

The first being that this book has a terrible message, especially for young women. For heavens sake, if a person calls and says he hurts people every time, listen. Run away. Never talk to them again. That is the warning to get out. That old adage about “when people tell you who they are, believe them” holds true. Don’t wait for them to give you up for sacrifice. She stayed with this guy until the very end and when it was finally safe to get out she did but she thought she could save him every step of the way. He kept giving her up. She also constantly compared her “sacrifice” to that of Jesus dying on the cross. This whole situation was so frustrating to me I was so angry at the end of the book. Nobody should ever treat you the way she was treated.

Second, the family was so trusting of this older man driving across the country specifically to see her. They didn’t ask any questions, but sent him right out to her. I guess I am a little more cynical than these folks. Everything she did is the complete opposite of what she should have and everyone let her do it rather than saying stop and look what is going on. It took another person who was willing to kill her at first and then became another love interest (because why not throw in a love triangle of men who want to kill the girl?) to stand up and say that she should not give her life for the other guy.

Third, why did nobody believe her, most of all her grandfather? Why did he not listen? He constantly was saying it wasn’t possible. In the very first book in the series he not only travels through time, but DIMENSIONS!!!! Of anyone, this is the man that should have said, “Polly, good grief! I am so sorry this has happened to you. I know how scary that must have been because I have lived it. Let’s see if we can come up with some solutions as to why and how this is happening and the best way to keep you safe.” I felt like there should have been more understanding rather than just letting her think she was seeing things. They spent most of the book either trying to convince her she was seeing things or trying to ban her from going places where she could end up 3,000 years in the past.

Lastly and briefly, the history in this book was completely wrong on so many levels and while L’Engle’s other books have tried to cover more science (despite it being right and wrong) I feel like things were thrown in simply to make it seem like there was still a science tie in. This was definitely much more “religious” than the other 3 books I have read (or maybe it just felt that way) which is fine, but not what I was expecting, and frankly I didn’t really want that mixed in here. I understand L’Engle was a deeply religious person and people speculate she was trying to reconcile her faith and scientific fact. She just lost me with this one – it didn’t work at all.

All in all, I can’t recommend this book. I found it completely un-Acceptable.

 

 

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