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A Live Coal In The Sea Paperback – April 11, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First HarperCollins Paperback Edition edition (April 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060652861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060652869
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Red hair acts as a red flag in this haunting domestic drama, signaling an end to secrecy in the far-flung Xanthakos family. When flame-haired college student Raffi Xanthakos demands to know if professor Camilla Dickinson is really her grandmother, Camilla guides Raffi along the branches of a family tree afflicted with a peculiar blight. Raffi's father is Artaxias, aka Taxi, a famous soap-opera star who behaves imperiously toward his wife and daughter. How is Taxi actually related to Camilla, and to his sister, Frankie? L'Engle, the venerated author of more than 40 novels for children and adults (Certain Women), delves into the past to present a compassionate portrait of Camilla and her husband, Mac Xanthakos, as a young couple beset on every side by inherited troubles. Mac is an Episcopalian priest; Camilla is an astronomer. This marriage of religion and science grows and flourishes with special help from Mac's wise mother, Olivia. An ill-timed accident claims the life of Camilla's own mother, and she and Mac find themselves obliged to raise the damaged child, Taxi, alongside Frankie. As Camilla gradually tells Raffi what she knows, and as Raffi does some snooping of her own to find her paternal grandfather, sifting through generations of half-told truths and desperate silences, both emerge from their journeys purged of weights that have burdened their hearts. If L'Engle's dialogue is sometimes board-stiff, lending this work the psychological depth of a YA novel for grown-ups, she still demonstrates a sure touch with her theme of redemption, rescuing all her characters from their separate sorrows so they can forgive and be forgiven.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Best known for her children's books, notably the classic A Wrinkle in Time (1962), L'Engle has also produced adult novels, including A Severed Wasp (LJ 2/1/83). Her newest is a family drama centered around astronomy professor Camilla Dickinson. In smoothly blended present and flashback story lines, we learn all about the skeletons in the family closet. When 18-year-old granddaughter Raffi asks Camilla why her father?Camilla's son Taxi, a soap opera star?claims she's not really her grandmother, the complicated true story starts to spill out. Camilla's young, pretty mother, Rose, cheated on her husband. Camilla's husband, Macarios Wanthakos, an Episcopal priest and son of a bishop, had his own dark family stories. Dysfunctions abound, and the anticlimactic answer to the puzzle of Taxi's parentage mars the ending, but this will fit well into popular reading collections.?Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I really enjoyed this book, and it's a great book for mature teens and adults.
Sarah Lewis
It doesn't quite hit lifechanger level, and the ending is something I'm still trying to figure out; to say more would consitute spoilage.
Robert Beveridge
While some aspects of the plot seem weak, the character development in this book is really beautiful.
Karin_Roberson@ats.wilmore.ky.us

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Everyone knows Madeleine L'Engle, right? Admit it. You've all read A Wrinkle in Time, and you all thought it was cool. Most of you probably went on to read the other three books in the series. (Some of you probably sought out the other books in the two series that crossed over with the Time books, and you don't need to read this review, because you've probably already read this book.)

For the rest of you, who wondered what L'Engle had been doing since then... A Live Coal in the Sea is her forty-second book, at least the forty-second listed in the "Books by Madelieine L'Engle" page. A well-stocked bookstore will have books by L'Engle in fiction, young adult, drama, poetry, religion, and at least two or three other categories. I know this because while a bookstore manager I actually attempted to order a couple of everything she'd written. It was impossible. I exceeded the weekly budget. Nowadays, or at least in 1996 when this book came out, L'Engle is/was the writer in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I'm not sure how one gets such a job, but I'll bet a good part of it has to do with writing a book that's been translated into every major (and many minor) language on Earth and has probably sold almost as many copies as the Bible.

So, the main question should probably be, has she lost any of that power in the last thirty-odd years since A Wrinkle in Time made its unassuming debut? And if not, why aren't her books still selling like hotcakes? The answer to the second question has to do with the changing priorities in the publishing business far more than it has to do with L'Engle, and the answer ot the first question is "not really.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you want to read an absorbing, moving and surprising story that you could read over and over again, reach for Madeleine L'Engle's "A Live Coal in the Sea." L'Engle is one of this century's greatest living writers. She always writes about meaningful and varied topics, and this novel is full of them. The story is shocking at times, and yes, there are sexual themes that are deeply disturbing, but this is an INCREDIBLY WELL-WRITTEN book. As a college graduate from the University of California in English and American literature, I have read plenty of books. I truly feel that writing doesn't get much better than this. L'Engle creates characters who are realistic and who have profound concepts to teach yet are fallible people. The protagonists within the story are amazing role models who inspire and disappoint us. "A Live Coal in the Sea" is a sequel to L'Engle's novel "Camilla" and it just makes the experience richer if you've read that before reading this one, but not crucial. I have to laugh after reading the other reviews here that pick apart small "flaws" within this story - YOU try writing something like this and then we'll talk! I think that all novels, whether they are written by Charles Dickens or by Jackie Collins, have something to pick apart if you are looking for that. If you want a story that will affect you and you want to read one of the most magnificent writers of our time, choose "A Live Coal in the Sea." I have read over 2/3 of L'Engles books (she has written many!!!) and besides "A Ring of Endless Light" and "A Wrinkle in Time" it is one of the best of her books. Whether or not you're L'Engle fan, you will most likely become one after reading this tale of true mercy, growth, and love.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
A Live Coal in the Sea was a fantastic book. It is a sequel to the novel Camilla, but you don't have to read Camilla to enjoy the book. It is about Camilla's granddaughter discovering her hidden hereditary. You relive Camilla's past and find out about all the skeletons that are hidden in the closet. Once you pick it up, the book is impossible to put down. Camilla lived a fascinating life, and you get the vicarious thrill of reliving her past as she reveals what really went on to her granddaughter. There is a surprise twist at the end, so when you think that you've figured it all out, there's still more to come. The book is appropriate for almost anybody that is at the end of high school or an adult, there are inappropriate situations for younger kids to deal with. I would reccommend this book to anyone who likes to read good books, or likes the author Madeleine L'Engle (who is a fantastic writer). It was a wonderful book with an intricate plot, I was sorry to finish it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Danielle on January 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've been a huge fan of Madeleine L'Engle since second grade, and i was thrilled to pick up this book, one of her more "adult" novels. But I was fairly disappointed in the end. Because of the constant switching back and forth between the present and past, I knew much of what would happen and the rest was obvious and predictable--but for the sudden ending, which seemed contrived and tacked-on. Unlike many of her other series in which I felt a real empathy with the characters, I could care less about this excessively melodramatic family. Throughout the entire novel I kept waiting for the story to pick up, for something unexpected and exciting to happen, for the magic that I associate with L'Engle books to surface, and unfortunately it never did.
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More About the Author

Madeleine L'Engle, the popular author of many books for children and adults, has interspersed her writing and teaching career with raising three children, maintaining an apartment in New York and a farmhouse of charming confusion which is called "Crosswicks."

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