Title: The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Page Count: 269
Where I Read It: Car Ride to and from Port Sanilac
Summary: (Adapted from GoodReads)
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life--the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
Thoughts on Book:
This book is unique, but also totally ordinary. The plotline is a very typical bildungsroman or coming-of-age story. It’s a young girl dealing with ordinary youthful problems: friend drama, first crushes, bra shopping, arguing parents, and loss. It is the kind of story that anyone can relate to.
What makes the story profound is contrasting it against the backdrop to a pre-apocalyptic world. Around Julia people are descending into panic about the “slowing.” People are moving away, others hoarding food, others creating colonies for “real time.” Walker succeeds in the world building of this slightly altered reality. I couldn’t tell you if any of the science bits are correct, but in the end they are irrelevant. The way that people react is both fascinating and frightening. Walker makes it all seem so real in the human ramifications of the slowing.
The slowing has little consequence to the plot, except for maybe the ending. However, the contrast between the buildingsroman raises a lot of questions for the reader. How are ordinary lives as risk of falling in future disaster? Are we like the narrator already too late to change our world? This is the kind of story that might have passed into a genre for younger readers, but instead this novel was published as “literary fiction” which for readers should be an indication that the author is doing something deeper with the story she is telling. Her memoir-istic writing and traumatic aspects definitely nestles it in the current trends in lit fic today.
The only thing that really bothered me was the use of technology in the book. I never felt like it was realistic to the way kids use technology today. The family seems to get all their news from the TV and newspaper, which maybe the occasional car radio. Which was weird, since the narrator has her own cellphone at age 12. It seemed as if texting, social media, and online news didn’t exist in their world. However at the end, she all of sudden mentions internet servers crashing, as well as giving a monologue about technology. I felt like this was the only aspect that kept the novel from being believable to me.
However, Walker’s writing style is both lyrical and whimsical, which help makes up for her technological failings. The book is subtle and gentle, only really emotional in the last few chapters.
Similar to: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, a YA novel with has a similar premise, but is much more of a “survival” story, whereas Walker’s novel is a coming-of-age novel above anything else.
Listen Along With:Let’s Be Young – Evan McHugh// Youth- Troye Sivan// I Was Here- Roo Panes