An Acceptable Time Review

An Acceptable Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (published 1989) is sometimes counted as the fifth book in the series about the Murry-O’Keefe family. Apparently there are more books about the O’Keefes and their adventures as a separate series, so I’m sure there are references to those that I missed. Or rather, I could tell there was elaboration on those adventures elsewhere that I just haven’t read, but this story was ok as a standalone (I think anyway—I don’t know otherwise as I haven’t read them!).

Polly O’Keefe, daughter of Meg, is staying with her Murry grandparents (who get names! Alex and Kate) after…something happened? I think a close family friend and mentor to Polly died, but it isn’t super clear to me.

Anyway, Polly stumbles back in time 3,000 years, but only for a moment, and meets two druids who tell her that the time gate is open. Then she spends many pages of the book mostly in her own time with her grandparents worried about what’s happening and forbidding her from going on adventures. While I’m sure it’s more realistic that the adults would be concerned that she might get trapped 3,000 years in the past, especially as they are just her temporary guardians, I see who most kid-goes-on-crazy-adventure books just have the kid go off without any input from the guardians: it’s boring to read all the objections, and it stops the story in its tracks.

Polly also has a friend, Zachary, who drags her back into time for the longer actual adventure part, and while I was grateful that he really kickstarted things, he gives a bad name to Zacharies everywhere.

He’s selfish, gaslights Polly, takes no responsibility for his actions, and in the end is treated far more kindly by the characters than he deserves (though that’s part of the point, but still…). He’s supposed to be charming, but I don’t see a lot of evidence of that—the “charm” seems to be confined to compliments to Polly, politeness to adults, and a bit of emotional manipulation. Clearly, I was not a fan.

The bits about people from the present and past crossing to each other’s time were interesting, and the characters from the past were good, but while it was interesting to imagine what culture might have been like 3,000 years ago, we don’t get enough time there to go much beyond stereotypes, and spent too much time in the lead-up. An ok book, but not one I think I’ll feel the need to revisit.

This was the last book I finished in 2020, though I ended the year 2/3 of the way through some Susanna Clarke short stories, so I ended on a better note than this.

★ ★ ★

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