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Maybe it's because I've done so much work with people who have a history of sexual abuse, but this book struck me as mostly being about wouldbe predators and actual predators I don't care if it's 1984 or 1954 or 1864, it's still creepy for a dude in his mid to late 20s to be dating a 16yearold, and to seduce her when she's at her most emotionally vulnerable The book's structure is also kind of nonsensical, and it is never wise to have the story you're telling in flashback beinteresting than the story of the present The love interest in the present Zachary Grey is a creeper and also insufferable, and Polly herself (excuse me, Polyhymnia) has virtually no personality of her own It's hard to root for her, or feel sympathy for her as she gallivants around the world or lives at home with her accepting parents on an island off the coast of South Carolina And then there are the maybepredatory lesbians with their deadly tropical diseases I actually don't think this even is an AIDS metaphor, but if it is, it doesn't make any sense as one Considering this is a later book for L'Engle, it almost seems like she took for granted the fact that people would read it As an advertisement for travel to Greece or Cyprus it's so great when you get to randomly leave school to take a gofer job at a conference of wordly writers! it's A As a novel, it's a bit of a mess. Embarrassingly bad Like L'Engle does Judy Blume or something Maybe an afterschool special Back and forth between stories, neither of which is particularly compelling I had thought we had seen the last of that idiot Zachary Gray, but he's back, as if nothing had happened This book is eminently skippable, alas. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, here’s a hint about my personality: If I’m reviewing a Madeleine L’Engle book, it means I had a rough week and needed to be with an old friend Madeleine L’Engle is that friend to me No, I never met her personally; but I go to her books time and time again, whenever I’m feeling melancholy, or in a rut, or listless, or reverent, or particularly annoyed, or even just bored She is dependable in her brilliance, her wisdom, and her ability to surprise me ( than once I’ve exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! Madeleine L’Engle just used the Fword!” or something equally surprising) We all need friends like Madeleine If you don’t have one yet, I recommend finding one You’ll be thankful for years to come Anyway, like I said, last week was a bad week No need to bog you down with details, but let’s just say that I’m in a grieving season, work has been super stressful, and I’m struggling not to punch people in the face on a daily basis So, Madeleine to the rescue This is the original, 1984 cover, and the version I read A synopsis: 16 year old Polly O’Keefe lands in Athens, Greece, with a whole slew of hurts, grief and secrets When she discovers she is unexpectedly alone in Athens (her aunt and uncle are delayed for a few days), she ends up spending her time with a young man she just met Zachary is tall, dark, and handsome; and while his attentions charm Polly, she is very aware that he carries his own stormy burdens Despite his unpredictability, Polly trusts him–a surprising feat, considering she has had her trust in others damaged lately In alternating chapters of past and present, we journey with Polly through a friendship that provided great support and growth, only to suffer a devastating blow As Polly deals with the hurt of her past, her present relationships–with Zachary, and coworkers at a retreat center–begin to showcase the anger, pain and inability to forgive she’s carrying When Polly’s fate takes a dangerous turn on an outing with Zachary, her capacity for forgiveness is challengedthan ever Surprisingly, I had never read this one before When a friend recently reminisced about this as one of her favorites, I had to pick it up I was not disappointed As always, L’Engle’s sense of narrative is strong and compelling Though there is no time travel or supernatural mystery here, as there so often is in her work, the pacing of the character development keeps you turning pages What is the wound that Polly so stubbornly clings to? Why would she turn from idolizing her friend at home, to fearing and avoiding her? I love how human Polly is She is aware of her own humanity–which is refreshing–and is constantly questioning her decisions and emotions Being from a scientific family (she is the daughter of Meg Murray O’Keefe and Calvin O’Keefe from A Wrinkle in Time), Polly is very selfaware, and logical in her thought process But her emotions still manage to get the best of her, and drive her to make decisions that hurt her evenI love this because I understand it I’m very much a “Thinker” vs “Feeler,” but I’ve made my fair share of irrational, emotionallybased decisions that have hurt me and those I love I love, also, that Polly really does know herself She makes mistakes for sure, but she is not easily persuaded to act in a way that she is not comfortable with Zachary, for example, guesses at one of Polly’s secrets, and attempts to persuade her into aintimate physical relationship While Polly is tempted, she does not buckle under Zachary’s advances, simply because she knows what she is and is not ready for This dedication to her morals is exactly what makes Polly such a strong and dynamic character She is not a watereddown, overly sexualized teen She’s dignified, she’s flawed, and she knows herself Humanity in all of its flawed glory is a powerful theme in A House Like a Lotus Each character, like a lotus flower, is layered and beautiful From Polly and her emotional baggage, to the complicated and beautiful relationship between Max and her lover, Ursula, to the rash but adoring Zachary–everyone in this book is human (And that isn’t always the case for many writers I think writing compelling, real characters at every level in a book is one of the most difficult tasks a writer faces.) While I do think this book is YA, I am very thankful I read it for the first time as an adult I’m not sure I would have connected with Polly as well when I was a teenager L’Engle’s writing is, as always, beautiful and elegant–but the setting and themes would have been a littleabstract for me when I was a teen But that’s just me I think older teen readers, or readers who just love good characters, will discover traces of themselves in Polly and her friends Whatcould you want from a book, anyway? [LOVE YA BOOKS? FIND MORE OF OUR REVIEWS ON YAKETYYAKS.COMPLUS OTHER AWESOME STUFF! :)] This is a straightup comingofage story, and one I had some issues with; but I don’t generally argue content when the writing and structure are good The latter is especially so (meaning I kept reading to get to the flashbacks) and made for compelling reading; though after the end of the first part, when the secret of Polly’s hurting is revealed, I found it less so The subject matter, touching on homosexuality and teen sex, is for the oldest, or most mature, of teens Polly is sixteen, a junior in high school, and she’s hanging out with twentysomethingyearold men; one with the encouragement of the adults in her life (I especially had issues with some of the advice, not related to the young men, her ‘woke’ Uncle Sandy gives her.) The adults tell her she still has growing up to do (she tells herself that as well), yet she is given a lot of freedom, though most of what happens to her is (realistically) unknown to her parents.I read this novel (along with its respective endnotes) in this edition: Oh gosh, the O'Keefes give me an inferiority complex! Just way too perfect Maybe I'm just too old, but the sexual relationship between Renny and Poly grosses me out I can't remember now how I felt about it when I first read this book as a young teen He is 25, she is 17 He is an internist and they have sex without a condom, and L'Engle wants the reader to excuse this and write if off as youthful passion overtaking them Um, no This is incredibly irresponsible on his part And then he acts like a paternalistic ass towards Poly Should have stuck with eating pizza with the teenager, Renny! As for the treatment of lesbianism in the book, it's misguided The O'Keefe parents sort of say that as long as the gays don't flaunt it, it's okay no, just no! It pains me that Meg Murray and Calvin grew up to be phobes As for flaunting it, how about the way you flaunt your heterosexuality with your eleventy billion children, hmmmm? This is one of my alltime favorite L'Engle books.As protagonists go, I love Poly/Polly O'Keefethan any of the other L'Engle main characters except Meg Even if Polly keeps going out with Zachary Gray (duh!) I love the settings of this book: one of the islands of the Carolinas, a beautiful place, and Greece, one of the places I long to go.And I love Max Maxamiliana Horne Who is special and real and fascinating and loving and helped me start, when I was a mildly angry young person, to accept a close family member who is a Lesbian From the perspective of now, when the Gay and Lesbian community is prominent and things like Prop 8 raise a hue and cry of dismay, it seems weird that anyone might ever have had such feelings, but I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when we did not talk of these things, and having someone in my family who was gaybut not openly so, because we did not talk of these thingswas very difficult And then Madeleine, whom I trusted and loved through her books, said to me through the character of Max that it's okay to love someone who loves differently and I began slowly to accept This book brought healing to me in a way that no human being did as I was struggling to understand. This is a beautiful book with so much to offer, but my God, I want to revise it over and over until it rests comfortably in the 21st century There are some instances where texts that are trying to be progressive age all the worse for their forwardthinking statements, and sadly A House Like a Lotus is one of them This book was a formative influence on me growing up I read it when I was twelve and was, well, deeply freaked out by the sex n' violence in it nothing on a level of what I expect from a L'Engle I was not quite as sheltered as Polly, but it was pretty close I reacted to Max's lesbianism with the same progression that Polly did Max's breakdown freaked me out, as did the sex scene with Renny I put the book down after finishing it with a skeevy feeling, and refused to count it, or An Acceptable Time, with the Time Quartet.I read the book again when I was eighteen Now I was closing the chapter on high school, and with amature perspective I could put Max and Renny and the rest into perspective, and the ending of forgiveness and grace rang true with me I realized just how much this book had influenced my personal morality, without my even realizing it when the shock had faded, I was still left with a profound respect for the complicated, contradictory nature of other people, and driven to attempt understanding, love, and forgiveness A to Madeleine L'Engle in that regard When her mysticism and true sense of agape shines through (as in Osia Theola's vision in the last few pages), this book is nearly transcendent Now, sixyears have passed At twentyfour, I reread the book, in preparation for giving An Acceptable Time another go I should add, a twentyfour year old who has lived abroad, whose hobbies include reading up on discourses of race, feminism, and queerness on tumblr (view spoiler)[Where before I was nodding along with Polly and empathizing with her struggles to accept Max's queer identity, now I was very nearly yelling at her to get over herself and not be so terrified that she might be queer herself (Although wanting to avoid giving fuel to the bullies, that is a motive I can get.)I know that this novel was groundbreaking and daring and brave for its time, but that has not really helped it to read any easier in the year 2014 I cannot express how frustrating it is that the MurryO'Keefe family* spend half of the novel assuring themselves and each other that it's OKAY for Polly to hang out with a lesbian, that of course they trust Max with Polly, then Max assures Polly that she loves her like a daughter, that Polly is in no danger from Max whatsoever until the climax, where Max clearly** makes a sexual assault on Polly, which sends Polly into a tailspin of pain, risky behavior, coldness, and angst The only redemption for this at all is that L'Engle sets up that Max is (bitterly) repeating the cycle of mistakes that her own father made, which cost Max's sister her life That takes it out of implying Queer women are disgusting and secretly lust for teenagers! into People repeat their parents' mistakes; ah, Greek Tragedy, which is comparativelypalatable.* And I still do not see the angry and wilfull Meg Murry I so love in this contented, unacademic, peaceful mother of seven Only occasionally do I glimpse the Meg of Wrinkle et alia.** Actually, it's not very clear at all Polly's reaction (though consistent and well written) is not on a level with what the prose describes Queron Renier may actually take the cake for having aged badly as characters go As L'Engle writes him, he is this painfully bland, goodygoody allAmerican good Boy Next Door, a boy that Polly's parents approve of and trust, and they are right to do so right up until he has sex with Polly, a patient in his care, who is deep in shock, trying desperately to prove to herself that she's not a lesbian***, did I mention DEEP IN SHOCK and CLEARLY UNABLE TO GIVE INFORMED CONSENT After which, he's all properly remorseful, slips in that he's been lusting after Polly all summer he, a twentysomething medical intern, she, a sixteenyearold girl I found myself yelling some very unpleasant names at Renny as the novel went on Yikes, gross, get him away from this novel, Ew.And as Mari Ness pointed out in her reread, the question of forgiving Renny is never brought up Polly never explicitly realizes that Renny did anything wrong You'd think the great healer Aesculapius would have some choice words for a guy who took such liberties with his patient *** I repeat, Polly, get a grip on yourself and embrace your inner bisexual goddess Ffs.While I'm on the subject, I don't much care for Omio, either I'm suspicious of the idea that marrying someone of a nation that has done you wrong can mean you've completely forgiven that nation; and that a married man with a child takes such liberties with Polly's personal space, with such overt romantic gestures ew, ew, ew, no, I've lived in France, and married men hitting on single and solitary young women isn't cool even when a Frenchman does it (hide spoiler)] &DOWNLOAD ✘ A House Like a Lotus (O'Keefe Family, Book 3) ↿ When sixteenyearold Polly O'Keefe journeys to Athens, she feels confused and betrayed The past eight months at home were different from any other time in her life She met the brilliant, wealthy Maximiliana Horne, who gave her encouragement and made her feel selfconfident Polly idolized Max, until she learned a startling truth that left her wounded and angryNow on a trip to Greece arranged by Max, Polly finds romance, danger, and unique friendships But can she find a way to forgive Max and remember her as than a painful memory? Note: I originally gave this about 2 stars (and said so in my Q1 wrap up on booktube), but after writing out this review, I couldn't give it any than 1 Justno.Alright, so y'all know I love Madeleine L'Engle She wrote my alltime favorite book (An Acceptable Time In hindsight, one should probably read this trilogy before reading An Acceptable Time, but since all the novels are technically standalone stories, the development of the characters should be selfcontained as well in the sense that you getgrowth if you read all the books, but no one feels underdeveloped if you only read one.This is the only book in the series (and the only of L'Engle's fiction books I've read so far) that is written in first person, which is just odd It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to write the first two books in third and the last in first, particularly because it then feels like a totally different writing style, which I was really not a big fan of But beyond my issues with Polly's development and writing and such, my biggest issues were related to the events of the story itself.The story starts with Polly going on a trip to Greece and then to Cyprus You learn pretty quickly that this trip was arranged by her friend Max and also that Max betrayed her in some way and she hasn't found it in her heart to forgive her yet As you progress through the story, you flip back and forth between what Polly is doing in the present and the development of her friendship with Max As a result, it takes a pretty long time to finally figure out what the big betrayal was and when we finally got there? I couldn't help but wonder why it was such a big deal Something specific would've had to be part of the big betrayal for Polly's anger and frustration to make sense, and it's in no way implied or explicitly stated that that thing happened So it just felt off.On top of that, in the development of her friendship with Max and during her present day time on Greece and Cyprus, we learn that Polly, who is 16yearsold, has relationships of some kind with multiple guys who are in their early or mid20s One of them is technically approved by her parents, but it still made me feel alllll kinds of squicky and uncomfortable Particularly with Zachary, the guy in Greece, there's a lot of emotional manipulation that takes place which is never okay, but is especially uncomfortable to read about when there's already the displaced power dynamic of an adult male and a teenage female TheI read about what happens between Polly and Zachary and Polly and the guy back home (blanking on his name right now), theI kept thinking, Did Madeleine L'Engle really write this?So basically, I'd skip this book It really doesn't add anything to other L'Engle stories other than introduce the relationship between Polly and Zachary, which resurfaces in An Acceptable Time, but I also feel like you could just treat the Time Quintet as a quartet and skip book five, so yeaskip this one Skip An Acceptable Time and you won't miss anything except poor character development and squicky relationships that make you question how a beloved author could write something like this. I love what Madeleine L'Engle can bring to the table: scientific and faithbased exploration by awkward characters in the midst of a chaotic world I've been reading deeper and deeper into her catalogue and unfortunately, it hasn't really paid off in this book.Pros: Polly is a character who has generally different experiences and relationships than most mainstream American kids, so that's kind of food for thought With Zachary, she is able to be in romantic situations without following them to sexlandcool Her parents/uncles are approachable and evenkeeled about pretty much every issue that most parents go into hysterics overit's not that they endorse those issues but they'd rather talk through it The title holds a great concepthow arrangements of people can unfold and create intensely significant environments for growth and development Cons: Zachary Gray Everything he does or says falls flat and is predictable about 1,000,000 miles away I didn't appreciate the ominous overtones about the terrible betrayalit was poorly integrated and brought back awful memories of THE LOVE LETTERS I felt that in A WRINKLE IN TIME series, you encountered weird characters that were actually pretty relateable Here, there's all these seemingly normal characters who ends up totally not connecting to the audience By the time the big forgiveness theme is unrolled, I was disgusted and conflicted about it.