After carrying off A House Like a Lotus so gracefully just a few years before, it is a bit of a comedown to see Polly O'Keefe relegated to third-person narrative viewpoint in An Acceptable Time. This woman who matured so vividly in a book that was unique to the Murry-O'Keefe family series of novels is handed a more standard Time Quartet plotline of time travel, somewhat akin to Sandy and Dennys' trip to the time of Noah's Ark in Many Waters. As a result, Polly feels less alive and less real, although she is unquestionably the same mature young woman we see at the end of A House Like a Lotus. This novel, at least, puts Polly one up on her mother Meg O'Keefe by giving her an adventure during the bloom of adulthood -- something that I missed with Meg.
Although Polly's character doesn't get as good of a treatment in An Acceptable Time, the character of Zachary (seen in A House Like a Lotus and two Austin Family series novels) sees major development. In A House Like a Lotus, he was relegated to the status of temptor and comforter to Polly, bemoaning his riches, his poor relationship with his parents, and his weak heart. The uneasy chemistry between him and Polly remains, but here, his health takes a turn for the worse, and Zachary is forced to face up to his mortality. By the end of the story, he is bitterly ashamed at what his fear of death leads him to do.
The story is typical L'Engle: well written, and deeper than one would expect given its target readership. While it is good, little makes stand out among the stronger stories of the Murry-O'Keefe series of novels, like A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and A House Like a Lotus.
In a way, it is good to have Polly lead this story, as opposed to Meg or some other character, for it ties the O'Keefe family series of novels closer to The Time Quartet. Previously, they had remained separate in style, with the second generation receiving more action-oriented, less fantastical storylines than the first. I always thought that Polly was missing out in not having the same type of fantastical adventures that marked her mother's teenage years. It also suggests to me that now that Polly has dabbled in Meg's universe, it is time for Meg to shine in Polly's type of story.
At last word, Madeleine L'Engle was working on an adult novel staring Meg Murry-O'Keefe at fifty, tentatively entitled The Eye Begins to See. Now that Polly has had her tesser, I would be very happy to see Meg carry off in the first person a story about complex human relationships.