Well here is my review/discussion of The Age of Miracles (finally). I finished this book around 3 weeks ago, but have been pretty busy with different things so I haven’t gotten around to talking about it until now.
Picture from NY Times
I was glad that when I went to the library they had The Age of Miracles, because as I have found out, it is hard to get new books from the library, because that is what everyone else is doing as well. The Age of Miracles is about what Karen Thompson Walker calls “the slowing”, where the earth’s rotation slows down, making both the nights and the days unnaturally long. During this time of change and crisis, Walker focuses the story on Julia, an eleven year old girl living in California and her life, family, and friends.
Although there is a coming of age story in The Age of Miracles, I viewed it more as a thought experiment. “The slowing” works its way into every detail of Julia’s life, and is what drives the story forward. Walker examines what the slowing of time would affect days, nights, friendships, schools, gravity, tides, soccer practices, and marriages. Julia herself wonders how many of the changes that she is experiencing could be attributed to the slowing as compared to simply growing up in a normal world.
I found that parts of the book were slow at times. Walker sometimes strays from the main characters to talk about “the slowing” itself, but the book is short so the slow parts never really lasted very long. I was drawn to it because of the unique story, and the writing is well done. Walker is descriptive and literary without being overly wordy. I tend to like descriptions both in my own writing and others, so I was attracted to that in The Age of Miracles. At times it reminded me of how I write, or rather how I want to write.
Another thing that I liked about the book was that Walker discusses middle school and adolescence without sugar coating it. Julia goes through some rough times at school and at home. It is important to realize that just because she is 11 and not an adult does not mean she doesn’t deal with real problems. She gets bullied at school, has a crush on a boy, and deals with friendships growing apart. All of these topics could be dealt with in an idillic way to make her life sound cute and quaint, but Walker does not do that. She is very blunt and raw in that way. There are real problems and stress in Julia’s life. Middle school is rough for everyone, and “the slowing” doesn’t make it any easier.
Another interesting thing that Walker brought up in her book was adaptation. There are people who stick to “clock time” once “the slowing” starts, and then there are those who work to adapt their life’s schedule to when it is light out. This creates an interesting divide in Walker’s society which I thought was interesting. Which time is the right time?
In a way this book reminded me of December by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop, which is about a young girl (also 11) who decides to stop talking. Both books are about only children (girls) and their families as they try to figure out how to live in these different times.
The Age of Miracles is a short read – it only took me about 2 days, and I started it at night. It can be a stressful book just because of the premise and reaction that the characters have to their change in environment. That and it’s middle school. But I definitely enjoyed the book and thought it was interesting and thought provoking. It all takes place in modern day (they mention bird flu etc.) which gives the book a certain eeriness to it. Julia’s world at the beginning of the book is no different than ours. All in all, I recommend this book.