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The Arm of the Starfish (O'Keefe Family #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  8,315 Ratings  ·  264 Reviews

When Adam Eddington, a gifted marine biology student, makes the acquaintance of blond and beautiful Kali Cutter at Kennedy International Airport on  his way to Portugal to spend the summer working for the renowned scientist Dr. O’Keefe, he has no idea that this seemingly chance meeting will set into  motion a chain of events he will be unable to stop. Caught between Kali’s

Mass Market Paperback, 283 pages
Published 1980 by Laurel-Leaf Books (first published 1965)
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Jennifer Klenz
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-favs
This book influenced me to become a scientist. It takes a heck of a lot more skill to write a really good "kid's book" than a best selling adult novel. Madeleine L'Engle once said that when she had something really important to say she put it in a children's book.
Not only did this book influence my career choice but I would like to say it reinforced my character. If you only choose the right way when its easy what's the point?
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Madeleine L'Engle creates a character they seldom appear in only one book, or even just one series for that matter. In The Arm of the Starfish a few of L'Engle's beloved characters from her Newberry Award winning book, A Wrinkle in Time, appear older, wiser and as parents.

Meg Murry and Calvin O'Keefe met in Wrinkle, but by Starfish have married, had six children and live on the island of Gaea off of western Europe. Calvin - now called Dr. O'Keefe - is a successful marine biologist whose dis
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love Madeleine L'Engle books. I love the families she gives most (main) characters-- strong, unique, loving, intellectual, spiritual families. I've only read her YA and JF books, but the themes aren't childish-- they deal with death, hard choices, and good and evil-- but she doesn't leave you feeling like the world is a horrible place to live. I would say that if there is any set of "book families" that I would want to model my parenting after, it would probably be the ones found in Madel ...more
joey carr's mother was a librarian at one of the local high schools, and she found out i was a huge fan of l'engle. she recommended this to me, telling me that she had actually written books for adults and teenagers, outside of the wrinkle universe. (or as l'engle herself divides them, chronos (austins) and kairos (murrays), with characters intersecting both worlds - canon talis, zachary, and adam.)

anyway, i saved this book for a particularly rotten day, thinking that i needed a good comforting
It's astonishing that this book was written by the same author as A Wrinkle in Time. Terrible dialogue, boring characters, convoluted plot, and overwrought puppy love so contrived I almost began to rethink my whole Twilight-is-the-worst-love-story-ever position.
This packs an unexpected punch. I had written this book off as belonging to the "not-so-great" category that some of L'Engle's lesser-known books for teens sadly fall into, but despite the difficulty I had getting into the story initially, in the end it surprised me. After spending weeks dipping into it, then being distracted by other, shinier books, I consumed the last third in a single day, and even found myself tearing up at the soliloquy on love and loss. Even when not at her best, Madeleine ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017, ya
We read every book through the lens of the time we're in -- the time in our lives, the atmosphere of the places we live in and love. Madeleine L'Engle wrote The Arm of the Starfish in the 1960s, and Adam Eddington's struggle to disentangle right from wrong, truth from lies, remains pointedly, excruciatingly relevant to the current moment -- maybe to every historical moment. "You cannot be uncommitted, Adam, believe me, you cannot," Joshua advises early on, when what Adam wants most is to be left ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Revising July 2016. Lowering rating to one star, because I don't remember enjoying this in the slightest. I may revise that rating further if/when I reread it.

Original review from July 2013:

Summary; Adam Eddington is a marine biologist. He is going to spend the summer working for the famous Dr. O'Keefe. Then he meets Kali Cutter and is sucked into a mysterious situation. Other people want to get Dr. O'Keefe's files on his experiments, which involve the regeneration of starfish limbs. They want
Nov 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-college
Really good young adult fiction here. Goes up on the list with Z for Zachariah, Ender's Game, and Feed as one of my favorite books written for young people. A few things I really liked about it:

• There was genuine ambiguity in the characters. L'Engle wrong-foots you from the beginning, and even when you think you've got everything sorted, she'll throw another monkey-wrench in the gears.

• The links to previous L'Engle books was fun. I was really confused when Adam got to the O'Keefe's house, and
David Gregg
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novel, reviewed, own
Excellent book! For the first almost-quarter of the book, I thought the story was hackneyed and unimaginative, but as I discovered later, the way-too-coincidental "accidents" that occur early on weren't at all coincidental, and the seemingly-improbable were provided truly plausible and satisfying explanations that managed to resolve conclusively all my uncertainties about the ability of the author. The story progressed with rapidity through a number of unexpected turns. It was pleasingly full of ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Intrigue! Espionage! Double agents! I was rather surprised by the rapid appearance of these elements. There are still enough of the usual L'Engle traits recognizable in the O'Keefe family and their actions and beliefs but this book introduces elements of science, politics, morality, and mortality in a way that is different from the author's two other series.
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
Sigh. One begins to feel very possessive of Adam.

Laurie can help me out here since I have not reread some of these for years but didn't M L'E mess up her generations here, making Adam a contemporary of Meg's daughter but also of Vicky Austin, when logically Vicky and Meg should be the roughly the same age.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All around lovely. By far my favorite of the four books of hers that I've read so far! Can't wait to dive into the next one.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Madeleine L’Engle is my favorite writer, and The Arm of the Starfish is one of best books I have ever read. Adam Eddington is the main character and the hero of this story. Adam is a young biology student who is offered the opportunity of working with Dr. O’Keefe, one of the most famous scientists of his time. Dr. O’Keefe is working on a project involving limb regeneration, and if his work got into the wrong hands it could be very dangerous. Adam was recommended by a friend to work for Dr. O’Kee ...more
First of all, ADAM EDDINGTON OMG. I LOVE Adam. He is easily in the top five characters in all of L'Engle's books. He's also the anti-Zachary Gray; his appearance in a book is an automatic plus a million, while Zachary is an automatic minus a million. (Commander Rodney should have let him drown in Ring. And since he didn't, Poly should have let him drown in Lotus. Third time the charm?*)

Anyway, Starfish is a lot of fun. Adam spends a bit too much time trying to make up his mind about whose side t
Rebekah Choat
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned

Sixteen-year-old Adam Eddington, a gifted marine biology student, is en route to Portugal for a summer job assisting renowned scientist Dr. Calvin O’Keefe when he encounters gorgeous Kali Cutter in an airport. This “chance” meeting thrusts him into a fast-moving power struggle between those who would rightly limit the use of an amazing scientific discovery and those who would manipulate it with concern only for their own gain. Through a whirlwind of necessarily instantaneous decisions a
Anne Seebach
I read this book many years ago, and only had a fairly vague memory of the story before picking it up to re-read now. I did enjoy the book, but not as much as the novels in the associated 'Time' series. I felt that the main character Adam spent so much time feeling confused, and thinking about feeling confused, that the other characters became very peripheral. Ms. L'Engle did tend to focus on one character fairly heavily in most of her books I've read to date, but this one seemed more marked. I ...more
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was cruising Amazon looking for something to purchase for around 4 bucks to get free shipping and stumbled across Madeleine L'Engle's name in the book section. i hadn't thought of her in years, and while i was sorely tempted to buy the Wrinkle in Time box set, I finally concluded Caleb was a bit too young to really appreciate Charles Wallace, his sister Meg and their adventures. So instead i ordered six of her books from the library. This one is much slower going than I would have thought but ...more
As a disclaimer, I'm not a reader of sci-fi/fantasy or suspense, so I have no great childhood love for Madeleine L'Engle. The only other work of hers I've read is A Small Rain, which I enjoyed.

Published in 1965 and set in 'the near future,' The Arm of the Starfish is meant to be thrilling and suspenseful. But L'Engle does a lot of telling rather than showing. Lots of (melodramatic) dialogue and not much action until the end. And there's an uncomfortable scene wherein twelve-year-old Poly wears
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thousandth-time reread. I had MANY THOUGHTS. Like, I see now that it wouldn't have been that big of a deal for Temis to lose a finger--doubtless the natives would have been used to that--certainly not worth possibly giving her a flesh-devouring disease. And it is hard NOT to read gay subtext between Adam and Joshua. If I didn't know that it would have been basically impossible for Madeleine L'Engle to write something like that without it being weird, creepy, and all-wrong, I would be convinced o ...more
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somehow I have managed to work around my busy movie-watching, clothes shopping, lunching schedule to reread some of the kids books in my basement. Frankly, I think this book is amazing, A lot of adult novels (and movies for that matter) tend to go so far out of their way to make a point that they lose track of plot. This plot, although written for 12 year olds, is perfectly paced and still manages to make a point. Yes, some of the teenage stuff is awkward, but still. I'll take it over Zach Braff ...more
Christy Sibila
Few books have made the transition from my childhood to adult shelf, but this book is a really fun mystery. I never read the rest of the series, actually, but if you are looking for something that is Madeleine L'Engle deep (which all fans of A Wrinkle In Time series know can be very deep indeed), or if your teenager is looking for something to read, check out The Arm of the Starfish. And if you read any of the other books in the series, let me know if they are any good. I may have to read them m ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Madeleine L'Engle wrote this story in 1965 but it is still rather contemporary. The main plot device in this novel is medical espionage. And, it happens to be a genre I enjoy reading.

I would have loved to give this story five stars, but something in the story made me change my mind. I won't say what it was because I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

Also, for "Wrinkle In Time" fans this will eventually tie in with it somewhere.

Give this story a go. It's worth the time.
emma grace
This is the second time around reading this, and I actually think I enjoyed it better the first time. It was still great, but I didn't wait long enough in between reading it the first time, and then reading it again. I knew exactly what was going to happen, so it kind of took the pleasure out of reading the book.

But this is a great book; definitly in the top five best Madeline L'Engle books!
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I like Madeleine L'Engle better now reading her books to my daughter than I did when I read the most famous ones as a kid.

It's funny how the good female characters have to be either beautiful or ugly ducklings, and the bad female characters can only be beautiful if they're destined to turn into horrifying spiders later.
Sabrina Bellesbach
Ughh...I would of liked this book, even with its obvious plot almost spelled out for you on every page- with everyone in the knowing of it but, our poor, main character, Adam... but seriously?... Why Joshua? :(
Mar 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read
First read in fifth grade instead of whatever I was supposed to be reading at the time. Good choice, me!
James Prothero
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great L'Engle book.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy Shit. The cover on this book looks cheesy; in 1989 it ruled. And I think it still does. I'll let y'all know. It is all about a starfish's ability to regenerate, within a teenage romance.
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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener ...more
More about Madeleine L'Engle...

Other Books in the Series

O'Keefe Family (4 books)
  • Dragons in the Waters (O'Keefe Family, #2)
  • A House Like a Lotus (O'Keefe Family, #3)
  • An Acceptable Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #5)
“You cannot see the past that did not happen any more than you can foresee the future.” 17 likes
“Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.”
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