The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle (1965)

The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle

From the 1965 Farrar, Straus, Giroux edition of The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle: Young Adam Eddington, a brilliant student specializing in marine biology, secures a summer job as assistant to the world famous Dr. O’Keefe, who’s laboratory is situated on Gaea, a small island off the coast of Portugal.

Before the plane takes of from Kennedy International Airport, Adam makes the acquaintance of Caroline Cutter, an attractive girl whose father has business interests in Portugal.


Caroline is going to Lisbon, too, but on another airline. Caroline warns Adam inn a hurried and unclear manner agains a certain Canon Tallis who, along with a 12-year-old redheaded child, is to be a passenger on Adam’s flight.

Adam, more interested in Caroline’s good looks than in her incomprehensible warnings, pays little attention to them until suddenly in Madrid (to which his plane has been redirected by weather conditions) ominous events begin to occur.

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An acceptable time by Madeleine L'Engle cover 1989

See also: An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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Caroline’s warnings take on more and more reality, and Adam finds himself the confused and unwilling center of a malign power struggle. Between these two groups of people, only one of which can have right on its sided, whom is Adam to believe? Canon Tallis or Caroline? Dr. O’Keefe or Caroline’s father? Joshua Archer or Dr. Ball?

And what really lay behind the disappearance of the red-headed child, Poly O’Keefe, during the flight from Madrid to Lisbon?

These are the problems which Adam has to face in a tense, well-plotted story of suspense which, while having much to say about basic values and human loyalties, moves to an extraordinary and satisfying conclusion.

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The Arm of the Starfish

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