1986 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Time Quintet Number 4
In an off-the-charts brilliant family with the ability to travel back and forth in time and space, Murry twins Sandy and Dennys are usually portrayed as cheerfully pragmatic, conventional boys. They go to school, play sports, try to teach their misfit savant siblings how to fit in with their peers, and they have “the twins’ vegetable garden.”
In Many Waters we meet the brothers on their own terms when, after messing with their parents’ computer, they are transported back to a time just before the Flood. To survive, they have to get back home before the rains start.
This is the most overtly biblical story of the Quintet; characters include Noah, Lamech, some good angels (seraphim), some bad angels (nephilim -anyone remember that X-Files episode?), and a scattering of unicorns and other supernatural beings. It’s interesting to read how L’Engle has chosen to portray the young men in terms of their reaction to hardship and their relationships with each other and with the desert beings they meet.
I view Many Waters as an outlier. I’m reasonably sure it’s one of only two books L’Engle wrote with male protagonists, and a hot desert here on Earth is quite the contrast to the settings of the other books. The only reason the boys are in this predicament is that they played with the computer; they were not overtly called to serve.
Unlike my experience with the first three titles, I am never compelled to revisit this story. I still believe it deserves four stars; I do recognize the beauty of the prose.
If you’re interested in learning more about the many themes and characters in this book, take a look at this Wikipedia article, which carries far more insight than I could hope to provide.