Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle

Did you love the Time Trilogy when you were a kid? A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet? Well when we were in high school, Madeleine L'Engle wrote another one! And this one is about Sandy and Dennys, the twins who were always the "normal" ones in the Murray family.

One day after school while looking for cocoa, Sandy and Dennys go into their parents' lab and accidentally mess with one of their father's experiments. Next thing they know, they're in a blindingly bright, scorchingly hot desert where they meet a small brown man with a mini mammoth who manages to take them back to his oasis, with the help of a couple of unicorns. Hard to believe? Yes indeed! Especially for these two no-nonsense boys who've never tried to understand particle physics or parsecs or mitochondria like the rest of their family.

While they recover from sun-poisoning in two separate tents, the twins are apart for the first time in their lives. They both fall for the lovely Yalith and are wary of the tempting but too easy Tiglah. They don't understand exactly who the seraphim and nephalim are, or where or when they are and how they can get home. Eventually, they find out that the patriarch of Dennys's tent is named Noah, and his great-great grandfather was Methusalah, and the pieces start to click together.

They help Noah start to build his ark, but wonder even more urgently how they will get home. And what will happen to Yalith? Are the unicorns really real? Why are the nephalim so curious about the twins? Will the boys figure out how to get home before the rains begin?

Madeleine L'Engle was always such a fascinating author to me, the way she mixes hard science and religion so well. The twins know that science lies at the heart of how they came to be here and how they will get home, but they also know the story of Noah and what's going to happen. The story involves angels and fallen angels, mammoths, unicorns, manticores, and other mythological creatures. In L'Engle's world, everything can coexist equally which I really appreciated as a teen. When kids are exploring their beliefs and religion, authors as open as L'Engle can really help kids understand that they have options and that some of the closed-minded black-and-white opinions they may be running across aren't the only options.

As an adult, I appreciated a little more irony than I did as a teen. For instance Noah and his father Lamech have had an ongoing feud over water. Lamech has the best wells on the oasis and even though he's old he won't let Noah take over his land. Wait, so Noah is mad at his father over water? Well, he's going to have more water than he knows what to do with soon enough. Some of the explanations came across a little clunkier to me as an adult, and the love-interest parts were less fraught with emotion, but I loved this book when I was a teen, and it's a worthy addition to the Time Quartet series.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I have owned this book since I was a teenager.


Stacy at The Novel Life said...

Carin, I too loved this series and this book - I've actually read most all of L'Engle's books. She is my No. 1 author of all time. Your point about how she seamlessly weaves science and religion together allowing the two to co-exist, helped me through many many questions I had during my teen years. I may just have to pick this one up again! My two favorites by L'Engle are Glimpses of Grace and A Ring of Endless Light; oh, and the Young Unicorns and A Wrinkle in Time and, and....ok, suffice it to say I love all of L'
Engle's books. Have you read her granddaughter (Lena Roy) book Edges?

Julie P. said...

I just read A WRINKLE IN TIME and loved it. I should definitely explore more of her novels.