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

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

by Madeleine L'Engle


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Characters from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time Quintet and Austin Family Chronicles cross paths in this story that explore the timeless themes of love, chance, and destiny.

“Tense, tricky, well-plotted, The Arm of the Starfish has all the stuff of which adult spy novels are made.” —The New York Times Book Review

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 seductive wiles and the trusting adoration of Dr. O'Keefe's daughter, Poly, Adam finds himself enmeshed in a deadly power struggle between two groups of people, only one of which can have right on its side. As the danger escalates, Adam must make a decision that could affect the entire world—which side is he on?

Praise for The Arm of the Starfish:

“Tense, tricky, well-plotted, The Arm of the Starfish has all the stuff of which adult spy novels are made.” —The New York Times Book Review

“From the opening paragraph, which places Adam Eddington in a great airport, its atmosphere tense with hurry and frustrations, the story rushes ahead, never losing momentum.” —The Horn Book

“What [Adam Eddington] expects to be a quiet but interesting summer of work with the famous marine biologist Dr. O'Keefe becomes a time of intrigue, with Adam playing a leading role in the struggle to extract information on the doctor's experiments with regeneration of starfish.” —School Library Journal

Books by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time Quintet

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wind in the Door

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Many Waters

An Acceptable Time

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L'Engle; adapted & illustrated by Hope Larson

Intergalactic P.S. 3 by Madeleine L'Engle; illustrated by Hope Larson: A standalone story set in the world of A Wrinkle in Time.

The Austin Family Chronicles

Meet the Austins (Volume 1)

The Moon by Night (Volume 2)

The Young Unicorns (Volume 3)

A Ring of Endless Light (Volume 4) A Newbery Honor book!

Troubling a Star (Volume 5)

The Polly O'Keefe books

The Arm of the Starfish

Dragons in the Waters

A House Like a Lotus

And Both Were Young


The Joys of Love

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312674885
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 06/07/2011
Series: O'Keefe Family Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 175,022
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of more than 60 books, including the much-loved A Wrinkle in Time. Born in 1918, L'Engle grew up in New York City, Switzerland, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Her father was a reporter and her mother had studied to be a pianist, and their house was always full of musicians and theater people. L'Engle graduated cum laude from Smith College, then returned to New York to work in the theater. While touring with a play, she wrote her first book, The Small Rain, originally published in 1945. She met her future husband, Hugh Franklin, when they both appeared in The Cherry Orchard.

Upon becoming Mrs. Franklin, L'Engle gave up the stage in favor of the typewriter. In the years her three children were growing up, she wrote four more novels. Hugh Franklin temporarily retired from the theater, and the family moved to western Connecticut and for ten years ran a general store. Her book Meet the Austins, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book of 1960, was based on this experience.

Her science fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time was awarded the 1963 Newbery Medal. Two companion novels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (a Newbery Honor book), complete what has come to be known as The Time Trilogy, a series that continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers. Her 1980 book A Ring of Endless Light won the Newbery Honor. L'Engle passed away in 2007 in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Date of Birth:

January 12, 1918

Date of Death:

September 6, 2007

Place of Birth:

New York, NY

Place of Death:

Litchfield, CT


Smith College, 1941

Read an Excerpt

The Arm of the Starfish

By Madeleine L'Engle

Square Fish

Copyright © 2011 Madeleine L'Engle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312674885

The Arm of the Starfish
1A heavy summer fog enveloped Kennedy International. The roar of the great planes was silenced but in the airport there was noise and confusion. Adam wandered about, trying not to look lost, keeping one ear open to the blaring of the loudspeaker in case his flight to Lisbon should be called or canceled. His bags had long since disappeared on the perpetually moving conveyor belt, and he was too excited to sit anywhere with a book. All he could do was walk about, looking and listening, caught up in the general feeling of tension.An extra load of business was being conducted over the insurance counters and at the insurance machines. Adam debated between a machine which would give him insurance and one which would give him coffee, and chose the coffee. Holding the paper cup in one hand, and his battered school briefcase in the other, he walked through a crowd of agitated people who had come to meet planes which were now being deflected to Boston and Philadelphia.The hot, sweet coffee finished and the carton disposed of in a trash can, Adam headed for a row of phone booths, but they were all occupied by frustrated people whose plans had been changed by the July fog, so he decided against trying to call any of his friends. Probably no one would be home, anyhow; they were either away for the summer or busy with summer jobs.So there was no point in trying to impress anyone with his job which had come up suddenly and gloriously after he and his parents had moved to Woods Hole for the summer and he was already set in the familiar routine of sorting and filing for Old Doc Didymus.Doc might be ninety and doddering, but it was he who had said, the second day Adam reported for work, "Adam, I'm letting myself get dependent on you in the summer and this isn't good for either of us. My young friend, O'Keefe, is doing some rather extraordinary experiments with starfish on an island off the south coast of Portugal, and I'm sending you over to work for him this summer."Strangely enough it was almost as easy as it sounded, parental permission, passport, inoculations, and a ticket to Lisbon.Adam, like every biology major, had heard of Dr. O'Keefe, but the scientist was only a name in the boy's mind. To work for him, to see him as a person, was something else again. He was full of questions. 'Young' to Old Doc meant anywhere between eight and eighty, but Adam had early learned that one did not ask Old Doc anything that did not pertain directly to marine biology. Adam's father, who had also worked for Old Doc in his day, knew this, too. He said only, "If Doc thinks you're ready to work for Dr. O'Keefe then it's the thing for you to do, and I'd be the last person to hold you back. O'Keefe has one of the extraordinary minds of our day. Your mother and I will miss you, but it's time you got off and away."Over the loudspeaker Adam's flight was postponed for the third time. He started for an emptying phone booth, but a woman with three small children beat him to it. The children huddled together outside the booth; the eldest, bravely holding on to the hands of the two littler ones, began to cry, and Adam, to his own indignation and shame, felt a strong surge of fellow-feeling with the child.He turned quickly away and walked up and down the large, noisy main hall of the air terminal, trying not to be disturbed by the loudspeaker calling, people rising from couches and trying to listen, annoyed men heading for the bar, mothers trying tocoax babies into sleep with bottles of milk or juice. The main thing, he finally acknowledged to himself with a feeling of deep shame, was that he'd always had someone's hand (figuratively, of course) to hold, his family's, or Old Doc's, or the teachers', or the kids' at school, and now for the first time (for shame, Adam, at such an age), he was on his own, and just because his flight kept being postponed was no reason for him to start feeling homesick and to look around for another hand to hold.Adam Eddington, sixteen, going on seventeen, out of high school and set for Berkeley in the winter, had better be ashamed of himself if a crowded airport, heavy with fog and tension, could put him on edge now.It was after his flight had been delayed again (but not yet canceled) that he became aware of one person in the enormous, milling crowd, a girl about his own age. He was aware of her not only because she was spectacularly beautiful in a sophisticated way that made him nervous, but because she was aware of him. She looked at him, not coyly, not in any way inviting him to come speak to her, but coolly, deliberately, as though looking for something. Twice Adam thought she was going to come over to him; it was almost as though she had some kind of message for him. But each time she turned in another direction and Adam decided that he was being imaginative again.He started to go for another cup of coffee, then looked back across the echoing hall, and now not only was the spectacular and enticing girl looking at him, she was walking toward him, and as she came closer she smiled directly at him, and held up one hand in greeting. His palm was slightly moist against the handle of his briefcase."Hi," she said. "I know you."Adam gave what he felt must be a rather silly grin and shook his head. "No. But I wish you did."She frowned. "I know I know you. Where?"Adam was aware that this was a rather outworn opening gambit. However, he felt that this girl really meant it; she wasn't just casting around for someone to amuse her until her plane should be called or canceled. With her looks in any case shecould have had any man in the airport with the lift of an eyebrow; Adam saw several men looking admiringly at the naturally fair hair, that particular shining gold that can never be acquired in a beauty parlor, and which shimmered softly down to slender shoulders. She wore a flame-colored linen dress and spike-heeled pumps. A leather bag was slung casually over one shoulder, and Adam no longer felt even the smallest need to hold anyone's hand, except perhaps the girl's, and that would be a different matter entirely. He was overwhelmingly proud that out of this vast conglomeration of people she had singled him out for her attentions."I'm Adam Eddington," he said, "and having met you now I'm not likely to forget it."The girl laughed, with no coyness. "I admit I'm not used to being forgotten. I'm Carolyn Cutter, called Kali. Where are you off to? That is, of course, if we ever get off.""Lisbon first.""Oh, sharp! Me too. Where next?""Well, I'm going to be working on an island called Gaea. It's somewhere off the south coast of Portugal."As he said 'Gaea' she frowned slightly--perhaps she was thinking of Gôa--but she said, "What on earth kind of work could you possibly find to do in Gaea?""There's a marine biologist working there, Dr. O'Keefe. I'm going to be assisting him."Now the girl definitely frowned. "Oh, so you know O'Keefe.""No, I don't know him. I've never met him."Kali seemed to relax. "Well, I know him, and if you'd like the lowdown I'll give it to you. How about going into the coffee shop and having a sandwich and a Coke or something? I was counting on eating on the plane and heaven knows when we'll get on that. I'm starved.""Me, too. Great idea," Adam said. He put his hand against the firm tan skin of her bare arm and they started across the hall to the coffee shop. Suddenly Kali stiffened and veered away."What's the matter?" Adam asked."I don't want him to see me.""Who?" Adam looked around stupidly and saw a middle-aged clergyman holding on to the hand of a gangly, redheaded girl about twelve years old."Him. Canon Tallis. Don't look. Hurry."As Adam ran to catch up with her, she said, under her breath, but with great intensity, "Listen, Adam, please take this seriously. I'm warning you about him. Watch out for him. I mean it. Truly."Adam, startled, looked at her. Her lovely face was pale with emotion, her pansy eyes clouded. "What--what do you mean? Warning me? For Pete's sake why?"She tucked her arm through his and started again toward the coffee shop. "Maybe the simplest thing to tell you is that he's a phony.""You mean he isn't a--a--""Oh, he's a canon all right, you know, a kind of priest who floats around a cathedral. He's from the diocese of Gibraltar. But I didn't really mean that." She turned her limpid eyes toward him, and her hand pressed against his arm. "Adam, please don't think I'm mad.""Of course I don't think you're mad," Adam said. "I'm just--well, for crying out loud what is all this? I don't know you, I don't know your canon or whatever he is, I think you've got me mixed up with someone else.""No," Kali said, leaning rather wearily against the wall. "Let me tell you about myself, and then maybe you'll understand. But first I want to know something: how do you happen to be working for O'Keefe?""I'm majoring in marine biology," Adam said. "My father's a physicist, teaches at Columbia, but we've always gone to Woods Hole for the summer and I've worked for Old Doc Didymus there ever since I was a kid.""Didymus?""You've probably read about him in the papers and stuff," Adam said with some pride. "He's one of the most famous marine biologists in the country, and he's still going strong,even if he is ninety. Anyhow, he got me this job. It's a marvelous opportunity for me."Four people at the head of the line were beckoned to a table and Adam and Kali moved up. Kali looked around at the people ahead of them and behind them, then said in almost a whisper, "Oh, Adam, it's terribly lucky I met you! I've absolutely got to talk to you. But there's no point here--you never know who might be listening. Maybe on the plane--. Anyhow, I'll tell you something about myself now, because at this point if you thought I was a kook I certainly wouldn't blame you."Looking at Kali standing beside him, at the pale radiance of her hair, at her hand resting lightly on his arm, Adam did not think her a kook. As a matter of fact, it didn't make the slightest difference whether she was a kook or not. She was a gorgeous girl who for some unknown and delightful reason had chosen him out of all this crowd, and what she was saying was only a soprano twittering in his ears. Most girls' conversation was, in his opinion. She chattered away, looking up at him confidently, and he sighed and tried to give a small, courteous amount of attention to her words.He had always, with a degree of arrogance, considered himself sophisticated because he had grown up in New York, because his friendships cut across racial and economic barriers, because he could cope with subway and shuttle at rush hours, because the island of Manhattan (he thought) held no surprises for him. But, trying to listen to Kali, he saw that his life, in its own way, had been as protected and innocent as that of his summer friends who lived year round at Woods Hole, and with whom he had always felt faintly worldly. Kali, it seemed, crossed the ocean as casually as Adam took a crosstown bus. She knew important people in all the capitals of Europe, and yet she talked about them with an open candor that kept it from being name-dropping. Her father had extensive business interests in Lisbon and on the west coast of Portugal; they had an apartment in Lisbon and were intimate with everybody in the American and British embassies. Because Kali had no mother she acted as her father's hostess for all his entertaining. "Andwe do lots and lots of it," she said. "Daddy's a sort of unofficial cultural attaché, only lots more so. I mean he's ever so much more important. Good public relations and stuff. Fine for business, and fun, too."As Adam listened, his mouth opened a little in admiration and awe. Her light, rather high voice, fine as a silver thread, spun a fine web about him. He felt that at last, here in the international atmosphere of the great airport, he was truly entering the adult world in which Kali already trod with beauty and assurance. She gave him a sideways glance, and her fingers pressed lightly against his arm. "I do love being daddy's hostess," she said, "and I really do very well by him. I mean I have a flair for it. I'm not bragging or anything; it's just what I'm good at."Adam could easily picture her being gracious and charming and radiant and having every man in the room at her feet.There was a group of six young people ahead of them, three boys and three girls. Adam felt that the boys were conscious of Kali's exotic beauty and envious because it was his arm she held, and that the girls were conscious of the boys' consciousness, and annoyed by it--Those jerks, he thought.--I wonder what they're doing here anyhow?The harassed coffee shop hostess moved through the crowded room toward the line and held up her fingers. "Two?""Oh, good, that's us," Kali said. "Come on, Adam."They were taken to a dark table in the corner. A waitress wiped off the wet rings and crumbs and stuck menus at them. Kali ignored the menus. "I just want a cheeseburger and a Coke. That okay by you, Adam?""Sure. Fine."Kali waved the menus and the waitress away with an airy command that just barely missed rudeness. She leaned over the table toward Adam. "This was luck, getting a corner table like this. I guess we can talk a little if we keep our voices low. This--what's his name?--Diddy--""Didymus.""You're sure he's all right? You can trust him?""Of course! We've always known Old Doc. He's--he's like my grandfather."She pressed the tips of her long, lovely fingers together thoughtfully. "I wonder.""What?""I wonder how well he knows O'Keefe. If he's ninety--""There are no fleas on Old Doc. You'd never take him for over sixty.""O'Keefe has a reputation all right," Kali said. "I mean, he's a scientist. That's no front.""Why should there be a front?""Oh, Adam, it's so complicated! We are on the same flight, aren't we?"They were not.Adam was going Swissair and Kali, Alitalia. She looked at him blankly. "How long are you going to be in Lisbon?""I don't think at all. I'm being met there and flown right on to Gaea."The waitress plunked their orders in front of them, slopping their Cokes. Kali looked at her sweetly. "I'm so sorry to trouble you, but would you mind wiping the table, please? Thank you so much." Then she looked somberly at Adam. "This is bad. I've got to see you somehow. Do you think you'll be coming to Lisbon at all?""I don't know. I rather doubt it.""Then I'll get to Gaea. I'll manage. Because I can't--" She held up her hand for silence as the loudspeaker blared. "That's my flight, Adam! The fog must be lifting. Come with me quickly, and I'll tell you what I can."They left their untouched food and Adam picked up the check. Kali waited impatiently while he paid and got change.They hurried along the echoing corridor. "Listen quickly," she said. "I can't really tell you anything now, but just watch out for O'Keefe, Adam. He's in thick with Canon Tallis. That's O'Keefe's kid with Tallis now.""Dr. O'Keefe's!""Yes. I told you they were in cahoots. He has dozens of kids.O'Keefe, I mean. O'Keefe and Tallis are against us, Adam. Don't let them rope you in. I'll try to get you to meet daddy somehow or other as soon as I can. I'm not being an alarmist, Adam. I know what I'm talking about. Believe me."Adam almost believed. In spite of the wildness of Kali's words there was something about her that carried conviction. And Kali, with her sophistication and beauty, did not need to invent stories to get attention.They reached the Alitalia gate and through the window Adam could see the big jet waiting in the rain that had driven away the fog. Kali took her ticket out of her bag, turned anxiously, and, to Adam's surprise, kissed him quickly on the cheek, saying again, "Believe me."Adam stood watching as she hurried through the door. People brushed rapidly past him. He looked vaguely for the canon and the redheaded child, but did not see them. Oddly enough he felt excited and elated as well as bewildered. He did not have the faintest idea what Kali had been talking about, or what she was warning him about, but this was adventure, adventure in the adult world. He had graduated, all right!He stood watching, bemused, as Kali's plane wheeled around and moved like a cumbersome bird down the runway. He could hear the blast of the jet as it slid out of sight into the rain. Slowly he walked from the Alitalia gates to the Swissair waiting room. There he saw Canon Tallis and the tall, gangly child, Dr. O'Keefe's child, standing with silent concentration licking ice cream cones, side by side, each bowed seriously over the ice cream.THE ARM OF THE STARFISH. Copyright © 1965 by Madeleine L'Engle Franklin. All rights reserved. Printed in April 2011 in the United States of America by R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia. For information, address Square Fish, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.


Excerpted from The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle Copyright © 2011 by Madeleine L'Engle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Arm of the Starfish 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It will keep you glued to the book. You'll be turning pages faster than you would ever have expected. I recommend this book for ages 12 (my age) and up or grades 6th (my grade) and up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captures readers through excitement and adventure along woth a great romance side of it. The Arm on the Starfish is a great book for readers of all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book had a unique and intricate plot. I didn't know what would happen next. This book has the power to make you laugh, and smile, and cry. I couldn't put it down. The books that go with it are great, and fans of Madeleine L'Engle shouldn't be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it could be better,but it was still a good book. Although the plot was a little too easy to see through there were still plenty of surprises. this book is recommended for anyone who enjoys heartwarming novels with a touch of action
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A by-far awesome book! It is exciting and you never see things coming! I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story moves along quickly but at first I found it a bit confussing. Once again the good vs. evil story line is center stage but also gives us a twist when one "good" caracter must help the evil henchmen. Once again it shows that good trumps evil especially in Ms. L'Engle's novels. I expecially enjoy the references to belief in God and the authors explaination that religion does not fit any one definition. We each have our take on the subject.
andersonden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It centers on a young man who goes to become a research assistant in a small lab studying regeneration of limbs in starfish. The lab is run by Dr. O'Keefe (the same Calvin O'Keefe in the "Time" trilogy - now married to Meg) on a small island off the coast of Portugal. Adam is caught in a moral dilemma concerning the research being conducted there and who has the right (or obligation) to use it - or release it. L'Engle skillfully handles his inner tension and conflict. The family and relationships are well drawn. An enjoyable read.
davegregg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 intrigue, action, and questions about morality and common love. It's a good book, worth reading. If you find a copy, read it.
livlovlaf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good book, just didn't end up the way i though it would. But it still had a good ennding. Very exciting and intresting. Adam-a marine biology student spending his summer working for a renowned scientist Dr.O'Keefe-has to choose which side to be on: Cutter's or O'Keefe's. Caught between Kali Cutter-the bueatiful young blond's-seductive wiles and the trusting adoraion of Dr. O'Keefe's daughter, Poly, Adam has to choose.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was quite the thriller.In the ebginning, it seemed a bit dazed. But, as you get more into the book, you see yourself so, indulged that may not ever come out of the fantasied book.To seem it had finished, before you've known it had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sounds super good does it have any thing to do with meg from a wrinkle in time????????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the classic good vs. evil storyline with a twist. The decision Adam has to make represents the conflict in the whole book and the same decision that everybody has to make sooner or later. Sad at the end, but it helps to show the love that the characters feel for each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Course it does!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How bout makin it a foursome?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do anythin u want to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story with a marine biology theme that is educational. It's a little out of date, but the author is very good, and the main theme is still relevant. Recommended reading for young adults.