THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker

I finished another book! Shocking. This is my lowest book month in recent memory – 3 books completed in September. Sigh. I’m telling you – it’s not the baby, it’s the job.


And now to the book – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. First off, I have to say that I rarely read sci-fi, dystopia, speculative fiction or YA. I have read a number of reviews of The Age of Miracles that criticize it for not holding its own in one or more of those categories. I can’t really address that criticism, because I am not familiar enough with those genres to judge. But I will say that I loved this book.

The Age of Miracles, which has gotten a great deal of attention this summer, is about the year when the earth’s rotation slowed down. The story is told through the eyes of an 11-year old girl named Julia who lives with her parents in southern California. With the slowdown comes a legion of problems for humans living on earth. The days start to get longer, throwing off the natural rhythm of life and confusing the calendar. Then birds start dying, unable to fly due to changes in the gravitational pull of the earth. Fruit can no longer be grown due to the changing pattern of daylight hours; whales are beached all along the coasts; and so on. Julia’s life is affected by these changes, just as everyone’s are, but at the same time she’s also a middle school girl trying to navigate the treacherous waters of fickle friendships, boys, and parents with their own problems.

The Age of Miracles (so named because adolescence is often called the age of miracles) is one of the most creative books I’ve ever read. Walker’s depiction of the gradual changes brought on by the slowdown, and the ways in which people reacted to those changes, was both realistic and totally original. There’s no revolution or apocalypse; there’s just ordinary people either trying to deny what is happening, or overreacting, or turning on each other because they don’t agree with how to adapt to the changing reality of a new way of life.  Julia is a matter-of-fact, minimalistic narrator whose small, personal life is just as important to her as the cosmic changes taking place around her.

I found The Age of Miracles quite stressful to read, as I suppose many dystopian novels must be. Yet Walker’s artful prose and the poignancy of her story kept me going despite the difficulty of the subject matter. My one complaint is that there was too much needless foreshadowing; she often ended chapters with sentences like “We had no idea how bad it would get later” or “It was the last time I would ever be in her house” or “We would later learn that…”. I find that kind of foreshadowing a bit cheap and patronizing. If a story is strong (as this one was), then I don’t need that type of hinting at what’s to come in order to keep me interested. I’d rather be surprised. This is a minor complaint, but it happened enough throughout the book that it’s worth mentioning. One other quibble: there were few mentions of how countries other than the U.S. were faring on the new earth. I’d like to have learned more about what was happening in other parts of the world.

When I first read about The Age of Miracles, I wasn’t interested in reading it. But I ended up getting it from the library and decided to take a chance on it, and boy am I glad I did. What a creative, thoughtful novel. I highly recommend it.

FacebookGoogle+LinkedInTwitterPinterestRedditStumbleUponEmail

9 Comments

  • September 30, 2012 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    This one has gotten such mixed reviews, I can’t decide if I should read it or not. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it.

    • gayle
      October 1, 2012 - 9:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s a quick read, if you decide to give it a go…

  • sheila
    September 30, 2012 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    Gayle. I completely agree. I do not generally read sci-fi, but picked this one up based on my bookseller’s strong recommendation and I really loved it. I have read a few other “end of the world books” but what I liked about this one is that life just goes on and you see how “real people” may deal with a crisis like this. I also thought the “them vs us” theme was universal to so many other situations. This was a book that has stayed with me for months after reading it. Glad you found the time.

    If you want another good YA book, consider John Green. I personally loved the fault of our stars, but I have heard that Looking for Alaska is even better. (I have two YA readers in my house and am trying to stay in the loop!) I am currently listening to Ready Player One (another YA book)… It is a Hunger Games type of book — a totally addicted listen! My dog is getting much longer walks then he is used to!

    Hope all is well with the little ones!

    • gayle
      October 1, 2012 - 9:36 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Sheila! Will check those out. Ready Player One seems daunting to me…

  • October 1, 2012 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I really did not enjoy this one although I fully realize I am in the minority on this. I just didn’t buy the severity of the situation. Everyone was entirely too calm. Didn’t see realistic to me. If I remember correctly, it was centered in So Cal and there is no way people here would act so calmly.

    • gayle
      October 1, 2012 - 9:36 pm | Permalink

      That’s interesting, Ti. I thought that it was realistic that people were in denial for so long. And it seemed like there was a lot of attention paid to it, at least initially.

  • October 2, 2012 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    It seems our taste is starting to diverge more and more! I really didn’t like this one either. I found myself annoyed and bored with such a young narrator. I wanted to know more about the rest of the world (and country.) I wanted a bigger view, which I suppose would have made it more science fiction. I do love the concept and am curious to see what Thompson Walker does next.

    • gayle
      October 2, 2012 - 10:16 pm | Permalink

      Say it isn’t so! I hate when our tastes diverge. :(

  • December 28, 2012 - 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Hey Gayle,

    I’m with Ti and nomreader on this one. I was disappointed. It started out so promising and then bleh. I felt so much of the story lacking and unfinished.

    Isabel

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>