The fifth and final book in Madeleine L’Engle’s TIME quintet is An Acceptable Time, a story about Polly, the daughter of Meg and Calvin, the kids we first met in that now-classic children’s science fiction novel A Wrinkle in Time. (Polly is also featured in a different L’Engle series about the O’Keefe family, and An Acceptable Time is the fourth and final book of that series. Slightly confusing, I know.)
One autumn while Polly is visiting her famous grandparents at their house in the country, Polly begins to see people who shouldn’t exist whenever she’s near that big rock where Meg and Charles Wallace used to go to think and watch the stars when they were kids. One of the people she sees is a girl who looks like a Native American and turns out to be a druid. There are also men carrying spears and a young man with a dog. It’s obvious to Polly that they don’t belong there and after consulting with Dr. Louise’s brother, an orthodox but open-minded bishop, Polly begins to realize that there is a time gate near the rock. It’s open for a few days because it’s the end of October — time for Samhain.
Though her grandparents warn Polly not to go near the rock until Samhain is over, a boy named Zachary tricks her into going through the time gate and they get sent back 3000 years to a time where The People of the Wind (who we met in A Swiftly Tilting Planet) live in the area and are at war with The People Across the Lake. Polly gets captured by a man who wants to sacrifice her to appease a god who might send rain. Polly must escape and return through the time gate before it closes.
The story is fairly exciting, if a little bit predictable. Polly is a pleasant protagonist, but her friend Zachary is not, so it’s really up to Polly to hold this novel up. She gets a little help from her grandparents, the bishop and his sister. My favorite parts, as usual for this series, are the contemplative bits about the scientific method versus intuition, the nature of space-time, and how God, not bound by time and space, loves and redeems humanity with forgiveness and a sacrifice. Readers who aren’t as enthralled by metaphysics and religion may not get as much out of L’Engle’s books as I have. My favorite line from this book is said by the bishop: “Yesterday’s heresy becomes tomorrow’s dogma.”
There are several connections with the earlier TIME stories, but you don’t have to read them to enjoy An Acceptable Time. But if you haven’t yet read them, I’d recommend A Wrinkle in Time (a must-read), A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. In my opinion, Many Waters can be skipped. Try these in audio format. Ann Marie Lee does a wonderful job with the narration of Listening Library’s audio version. It’s almost ten hours long.