The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Julia is an average eleven-year-old in a California suburb until suddenly the days begin to grow longer. The Age of Miracles is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an altered world: the earth’s rotation has suddenly begun to slow.

Age of MiraclesThe natural world is thrown into chaos as time is added to each day and the time between sunrise and sunset continually increases.  People must adjust to long, dark days and nights of blinding light not knowing if or when the earth’s rotation will go back to normal, plants begin to die from the changes in natural light, birds fall from the sky as gravity is affected. Dubbed, “the slowing,” suddenly the simplest things that seemed so concrete, such as the times of the sunrise and sunset are unpredictable and unknowable. Scientists are baffled – they can’t explain it or determine its cause. The world is forced to wonder if the end is near and yet, this is not a novel about the end of the world.

Amidst all those changes, Julia is dealing with the normal struggles of an adolescent girl – the sudden distance of her former best friend, the strains in her parent’s marriage and the possibility of love. This may lead some to consider this a young adult novel, and while it may also appeal to younger readers, I don’t believe the age of this novel’s main character determines its audience.

The story was compelling, thought-provoking and engaging. It is one of those books that draws you into its world so much you must readjust to reality when you put it down to return to your own life. It is a quiet, yet stunning novel that will stay with you. It was by far, my favorite book of 2012, and in my opinion, a must-read.

I was drawn in by the voice; the first-person narration of The Age of Miracles is retrospective, the adult Julia looking back on the slowing. In the reading guide, Karen Thompson Walker says, “An adult looking back on childhood is always a story about a  lost era; we can never be children again. That simple fact gives the voice an inherent melancholy and nostalgia that seemed exactly right for a novel about what might be the end of the world.” And I agree the voice is not only fitting but also works well to build suspense as Julia hints at events to come.

The idea of the slowing and its consequences are thought-provoking. It got me thinking about all the apocalyptic stories we’ve heard over our lifetimes, fictional stories of deadly earthquakes,rapidly spreading disease or alien invasion leading to our ultimate demise. This story led me to the idea that perhaps the world won’t face a drastic and sudden catastrophic end, but rather a slow, demise from some event we never expected or predicted.

The novel doesn’t seek to answer all the questions that it raises and leaves to mystery the science behind the slowing – and truly that isn’t what this novel is about. If you’re looking for a science-fiction, end-of-the-world novel this isn’t the book for you. But rather, this novel shows us how life goes on in the face of global change.

I look forward to reading whatever comes next from this debut author.

 “We dipped our fingers into the wet cement, and we wrote the truest, simplest things we knew – our names the date, and these words: We were here.”

For more on The Age of Miracles and a book trailer, visit http://www.theageofmiraclesbook.com/

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