by Madeleine L\’Engle
Vicky and her family are spending the summer on an island with her grandfather, who is dying from leukemia. The story is about her search for a sense of identity and stability, while facing her grandfather\’s approaching end, and the unexpected deaths of several other people around her. At the same time she\’s juggling the attentions of three very different boys- a solid friend who wants to be more, a reckless spoiled rich guy who has obvious history with her family (they don\’t like him, and I don\’t blame them although I missed the backstory, not realizing at first this is the fourth book about the Austins) and a friend of her brother\’s who works in a marine biology lab. She gets involved in his dolphin study and through him meets some wild dolphins. Her natural ability to communicate with them grounds her through all sorts of difficulties. She\’s always got the wisdom of her grandfather to fall back on, her older brother and the shoulders of her friends, but she often feels alone and confused as well. The summer is full of new experiences for her. She\’s apparently used to being overshadowed by her pretty younger sister, but now is growing into her own.
I am pretty sure this book wound up on my shelf from a library sale or secondhand shop. I picked it up just because it was an unfamiliar L\’Engle to me, with a girl riding a dolphin on the cover! It\’s the first beyond the Wrinkle in Time quartet that I\’ve read. I think I would have loved this book as a teen, but unfortunately reading it first as an adult, I wasn\’t so impressed. And that saddens me, because so many other readers mention this is their favorite of the Austin family books. It\’s got a lot going for it- young teen longings, cute and mysterious boys, exciting moments with the dolphins, a very bookish and wise family. I think the main reason I couldn\’t really get into the story was, surprisingly, the amount of deep, serious conversations everyone had. About life, death, humans wrecking the environment, animal communication, cryonics, suicide, poetry, science, discoveries in outer space and so on. It was interesting reading and has some wonderfully quotable lines, but I don\’t know many people who actually talk like this to each other- always sounding so profound. It stretched my ability to believe in the characters. I really felt for Vicky though. There\’s so much death in this book, so much grief. They handle it very well. The part about the dolphins and their telepathic communication was almost too much. If the book had been more mystical maybe I would have gone along with it easier. It did make me curious to read An Arm of the Starfish, though.
I should hand this one to my ten-year-old and see what she makes of it!
Rating: 3/5 324 pages, 1980
I do think that this is a book that needs to be read at just the right age. It was my favorite Madeleine L'Engle book for years and I wept buckets over it in junior high. I haven't gone back to read it as an adult, but have attempted other books in the series as an adult and they haven't lived up to my expectations at all.
Yes, that's definitely the case with this book.