Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Release Date
: June 19th 2012
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher / TLC Book Tours
Publisher: Random House
Buy It: Book Depository
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 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.
What an incredible debut novel. Easily one of my favourite novels of 2012, The Age of Miracles captured my attention from the first paragraph. It begins:
"We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it.
We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin."
This perfect simplicity, this beautiful description, is a staple of Walker's and though at first I was riveted by her words, they would have been nothing without a strong and dimensional cast of characters to back them up. At the center of the story is Julia, an adult reflected back on when everything changed, when the earth began to slow on its axis and time piled up, each day getting longer than the last. Even though Julia is twelve at the time of the story, The Age of Miracles isn't young adult because she has the adult perspective. At the same time, the clarity and ease of Walker's writing, as well as the content, means that like Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner this could definitely appeal to a younger audience too.

Despite all the natural disasters that occur, The Age of Miracles is not a traditional science fiction or post-apocalyptic story; it's really a coming of age novel. Even as the world around her falls apart, Julia still has to navigate the normal struggles of growing up: friendship, love, family. It is these struggles that allowed me to connect with her as a reader, and I found them realistic and heart-breaking. At its core, this is a story about Julia, and not the broken planet.

Still, as a science grad student myself I sometimes have a hard time suspending belief when reading novels where things happen without explanation (like The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe). While I'm not entirely sure why the slowing occurred, otherwise the vision of the future that Walker creates comes with the appropriate science to back it up. What I mean is that the events that follow have logic behind them– for example, as the days slow, certain plants can no longer survive in the extended darkness. Each disasters that follows has a similar reasoning behind it, so that as a reader I was never thrown out the story and left questioning but instead remained fully immersed in Walker's world.

Even though I enjoyed Walker's vision of the future, ultimately, it is the words not the world that made me fall in love with this novel. Combining a simple and eloquent voice, perfect moments of description, and genuine characters, Walker's debut novel The Age of Miracles was everything I hoped it would be from that first perfect sentence.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! Amazing review! Now I definitely have to add this to my TBR list!!!

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  2. I was going to pass on this one, but you sold me; thanks

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    1. I really loved it... I hope you do too!

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  3. I also loved this book very much, though I'm not too much into coming of age novels, never scifi! but great combo here, well done. here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/07/09/2012-33-review-the-age-of-miracles/

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  4. Wow, I'm thrilled to see that the book lived up to your very lofty expectations! Thanks for being on the tour.

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