It’s like L’Engle knew exactly what I was struggling with when she wrote An Acceptable Time. I had been struggling with the mundanity of the O’Keefe Family series and I’d been complaining about the short rapid endings. I’m not sure if she answered all my questions, but she wrote this one well/differently enough that it felt like she answered all of my concerns about the series.
It was also, to me at least, great that this book was the eighth book written and the eighth in the series, the only other one to happen like this is the first. But I think that probably worked to L’Engle’s advantage in that the interconnectedness of the two series is apparent throughout. The mentions of characters and happenings is excellent, but I was a little confused about how open the Murray’s were about their children’s time travel and experiences, but a little less open in this book about their granddaughters’. Perhaps it has to do with getting old, or Polly not being their permanent responsibility, but it felt a bit odd considering the first four books in the series.
Where L’Engle really made me respect her more was how she talks about religion and people in general. Her religious views (Wikipedia link) were evolved and many more people could stand to look at religious beings as she did. She openly acknowledges that modern religions are built on the backs of those that came before (pagan and otherwise).
“Yesterday’s heresy becomes tomorrow’s dogma.” (Loc. 1928)
“Sacred. We have lost a sense of the sacredness of space as we have settled for the literal and provable. We remember a few of the sacred spaces, such as Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, or Glastonbury Abbey. Mount Moriah was holy before ever Abraham took Isaac there. So was Bethel, the house of God, before Jacob had his dream, or before the Ark of the Covenant was briefly located there, according to Judges.” (Loc. 1795)
I was also VERY impressed with her decision not to romanticize the distant past. She didn’t play the “it was an easier time” card. She straight up was like people have been good and bad for as long as people have been people.
“People, in her experience, were people, some good, some bad, most a mixture.” (Loc. 801)
L’Engle exaggerated this a little in her portrayals of The People of the Wind and the People Across the Lake, but I think she needed to in order to get her point across to a younger audience. Not that she needed to, but she provided examples that could be understood by teenagers of all maturity levels from the astronomical ideas in the Time Quintet to the mundane issues faced by teenagers in modern society.
Recommendation: Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed both series and this book in particular. I think you could read just the Time Quintet and probably pass on the O’Keefe Family, but the story would be incomplete. As much as I struggled with the O’Keefe trilogy, they added the much-needed “reality” to L’Engle’s carefully crafted world.
Opening Line: “She walked through an orchard, fallen apples red and cidery on the ground, crossed a stone wall, and wandered on into a small wood. The path was carpeted with leaves, red, orange, gold, giving off a rich, earthy smell.”
Closing Line: “They went into the house.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from An Acceptable Time
“‘Women have come a long way,’ her grandmother said, ‘but there will always be problems—and glories—that are unique to women.’ (Loc 439)
“Thursday was All Hallows’ Eve and Bishop Colubra took it with great seriousness. Samhain. A festival so old that it predated written history. Polly’s skin prickled, not with fear now, but with expectation, though for what she was not sure. All she knew was that she was touching on that long-gone age as it rose out of the past to touch on another age, a present that was perhaps as brutal as any previous age, but was at least familiar.” (Loc. 849)
“‘There is a pattern,’ Karralys said.’There are lines drawn between the stars, and lines drawn between places, and lines…'” (Loc. 1390)
“That little rhyme doesn’t take into account that words have power, intrinsic power. I love you. What could be more powerful than that small trinity? On the other hand, malicious gossip can cause horrible damage.” (Loc. 1553)
“Drugs were a problem at Cowpertown High. So were unwed mothers. So was lack of motivation, a lazy conviction that the world owed the students a living.” (Loc. 1847)
“Having women set apart during their periods was a simple sanitary measure, and a ritual that was often looked forward to, when women could be together and rest from the regular backbreaking work. It was a time of rejuvenation, of peace and prayer. (Loc. 2009)
“‘Isn’t your love enough?’ The question sounded sentimental as she asked it, but as she looked at the moon sparkling off the lake, she understood dimly that the love she was thinking about was not sentimental at all but firm and hard as the star-watching rock.” (Loc. 2459)
“The unknown is always frightening, no matter how much we trust in the purposes of love.” (Loc. 2534)
“If she could not understand his belief that the earth demanded blood, would he not be equally horrified by the slums of modern cities, by violence in the streets, drug pushing, nuclear waste? How could the star lines be connected to urban violence and human indifference?” (Loc. 3096)