A Ring of Endless Light
originally published 1980
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 16th printing, 1980
Genre: Young adult, Bildungsroman, fantasy
Synopsis & Review: Almost sixteen, Vicky Austin’s summer begins with her first funeral. Family friend Commander Rodney is dead of a heart attack that occurred after he saved a wealthy young man who had sailed out into a squall. On top of Commander Rodney’s death, the Austins are on Seven Bay Island to spend the summer with Grandfather, who is dying of cancer. While Vicky tries to reconcile herself to the mortality all around her, Commander Rodney’s son Leo turns to Vicky for love and support, and she also meets Adam, a young man working with her brother John at the marine biology station. Like the proverbial bad penny, Zachary Gray, the young man with a heart condition and deathwish arrives on Seven Bay Island, and it was of course he who sailed into the storm that killed Commander Rodney. All three young men try to claim Vicky’s notice, Leo and Zachary out of friendship and desire, and Adam for his own purposes. He senses an openness in Vicky, something he can use for his private marine biology project, an attempt to communicate with dolphins. As much as he’d like to believe she’s just John’s kid sister, Adam becomes more aware of Vicky as a bright, loving young woman. And when the catastrophe comes, it is that lovingkindness in Vicky, her friends, and her family that will carry her through.
I’m pretty bummed that this is the last of the Austin Chronicles. (I skipped The Young Unicorns for now, because it didn’t hold my interest sufficiently before someone else in Multnomah County wanted to read it, the jerk. Some day.) At least I still have the rest of the Kairos books to look forward to (there’s a helpful chart/family tree in the beginning of this copy). Read the rest of this entry »
The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle
originally published 1963
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 18th printing, 1997
Genre: Juvenalia, young adult
Synopsis & Review: It’s been a year, and things are changing for the Austin family. Their Aunt Elena, widowed in Meet the Austins, is marrying their Uncle Douglas, and the two will be adopting Maggie and moving to California. The Austins themselves will be moving back to New York City, so that their father can pursue research. To cushion the blow of leaving their beloved home and pets in Thornhill, Connecticut, the Austins head out on a camping trip across the continent, to California and back. Along the way, they encounter interesting people and the beauties of North America. And Vicky, blossoming after an awkward pre-adolesence, begins attracting attention.
Like a moth to a flame, Zachary Grey follows Vicky across the country, playing Hares and Foxes, despite her parents’ objections. Zack is a troubled young man, living on borrowed time, and he alternately thrills and confuses Vicky. On the way back east, she also meets Andy Ford in Yellowstone, a bright, considerate young man who makes plans to meet up with her in New York. Feeling pressured by her family on one side, and strange young men on the other, Vicky struggles to find her own identity and assert it.
One thing I can hardly bear is to read the first book in a series and not be immediately able to continue it, so when I decided to request Meet the Austins from the Multnomah County Library, I also requested The Moon by Night. Both arrived just in time for Dewey’s Read-a-Thon, and were my fallback un-read YA books. You know, for in case I needed something lighter. And it was a lot lighter a read than Meet the Austins, for me at least. Read the rest of this entry »
Meet the Austins by Madeline L’Engle
originally published 1960
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1997
Genre: Juvenalia, young adult
Synopsis & Review: The moment Maggy Hamilton steps into the happy lives of the Austin family, she disrupts their harmonious world, bringing with her all the sullenness and insolence of her own misery.
Vicky Austin knows she should sympathize with Maggy for being an orphan, but she can’t help but resent her for making life so difficult. It looks like Maggy may be a member of the family for a long time, possibly forever. Vicky remembers the happy times and finally accepts that things will never be the same, but she wonders what’s to come. (cover blurb)
The Austin family–Mother, Father, John, Vicky, Suzy, and Rob, plus innumerable cats and two dogs–live in a rambling old farmhouse on a windy Connecticut hill, a mile or two off the main road. They are a close, literate family, with great consideration for one another (sound familiar?), and live a pleasant, comfortable life. And then one night the phone rings, and their close family friend Uncle Hal is dead. In the wake of his death as a test pilot, his partner’s motherless little girl, Maggie comes to stay with the Austins, bringing a discordant note into their harmonious lives. Maggie is spoiled, selfish, loud, and attention-seeking, everything the Austin parents try to teach their offspring not to be.
How did I miss these books? I loved A Wrinkle in Time, and read several of the sequels, so how did I manage to never encounter the Austins? Perhaps it stemmed from my diffident reading of An Acceptable Time, a book I had a hard time giving a crap about (though I still own it) and was highly disappointed by. Polly just never did it for me the way the older generation of Murrays did, I guess. Despite my disappointment at not growing up with the Austins, I am delighted to have discovered them at this late date. Read the rest of this entry »
See you in a few hours!