Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker- Review
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.
Dystopia and post-apocalytic stories have become increasingly more prevalent in fiction these days. I've grown from having just a few, to half of a shelf shared with zombies, and all of a sudden I seem to have towering piles of them screaming for their very own BIG shelf. Maybe it's all the worrysome signs in our every day lives that things are changing in the environment and weather, or maybe it's human nature to dream up worlds where everything is chaos, but either way I'm obviously not the only one who's into the subject these days. So when I heard about The Age of Miracles back in February at a Random House event I knew it was a book I had to read.
Like Erin Morgensterns Random House debut last fall, Karen Thompson Walkers book blew me out of the water with its voice, ambience and style. You don't read The Age of Miracles so much as you're swept away by it. It's haunting, sad and yet in many ways a very steriotypcal look at growing up- in all it's awkward glory- just while the world slowly grinds to a stand still.
Julia is quiet, and desperately alone, struggling to survive puberty and all the horrors it can throw a pre-teen, while simultaneously struggling with the slow death of the world. Sun or no sun, snow in California or whales beaching all across the coast, Julia gets up and goes to school, where she longs to be noticed by her crush, is hurt by her best friend and tries in vain to avoid the school bully. I'm not sure if the tragedies of these common events are made more effective by the swirl of end of days drama surrounding her, or if it merly highlights how adaptable we are as a specieces. Julia's childhood is my childhood, just with longer days, less gravity, and a lot more dead whales. Either way it's equal parts dramatic and mundane, and somehow it makes the apocalypse scarier, because Karen Thompson Walker has made it feel very, very real.
It left me with a profound sense of unease, but also a feeling of hope, and no shortage of things to think about for days after. A beautiful read you'll want to talk about after (why, oh why, am I not in a book club?!).
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
Published by Random House, June 26th, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy The Age of Miracles on Amazon