Audie Award Nominee, Science Fiction, 2013
With a voice as distinctive and original as that of The Lovely Bones, and for the fans of the speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood, Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles is a luminous, haunting, and unforgettable debut novel about coming of age set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world. "It still amazes me how little we really knew... Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It's possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much."
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.
©2012 Karen Thompson Walker (P)2012 Random House Audio
Advance praise for The Age of Miracles
: "[A] gripping debut....Thompson's Julia is the perfect narrator...While the apocalypse looms large-has in fact already arrived-the narrative remains fiercely grounded in the surreal and horrifying day-to-day and the personal decisions that persist even though no one knows what to do. A triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum, the story also feels eerily plausible, as if the problems we've been worrying about all along pale in comparison to what might actually bring our end."(Publishers Weekly)
"In Walker's stunning debut, a young California girl coming of age in a dystopian near future confronts the inevitability of change on the most personal level as life on earth withers. She goes through the trials and joys of first love. She begins to see cracks in her parent's marriage and must navigate the currents of loyalty and moral uncertainty. She faces sickness and death of loved ones. ...Julia's life is shaped by what happens in the larger world, but it is the only life she knows, and Walker captures each moment, intimate and universal, with magical precision. Riveting, heartbreaking, profoundly moving. (Kirkus Reviews)
"What a remarkable and beautifully wrought novel. In its depiction of a world at once utterly like and unlike our own, The Age of Miracles is so convincingly unsettling that it just might make you stockpile emergency supplies of batteries and bottled water. It also - thank goodness - provides great solace with its wisdom, its compassion, and the elegance of its storytelling." (Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep)
The Age of Miracles is told from the perspective of a girl named Julia, who reflects back on the time when she was 11 years old. She relates the details of her life and the events that took place back then, focusing primarily on a phenomenon known as "The Slowing," when the Earth began to rotate more slowly on a continuous basis. Minutes and hours continued to be added to each day, and it affected daily life on every level. Society became separated between the "real-timers" who woke and slept to the Earth's natural rhythms and who believed that their bodies would adjust just as the Earth had; and the "clock-timers" who still lived by the 24-hour clock and woke and slept no matter whether the sun or moon was shining. The "real-timers" became ostracized by the "clock-timers," who felt threatened by them. The "real-timers" eventually established communities of like-minded folks, so there was a complete segregation of society. As the days stretched longer and longer, it also had an impact on the crops which could no longer be sustained because of the lengthy periods of darkness. People began to stock-pile and hoard canned food and other non-perishables in the event of a global famine. Some forms of wildlife begin to die off. The change in gravitational pull wreaked havoc on airplanes, the tides, and just about anything in motion. As people faced what they feared was the beginning of the end, divorce rates and suicides sky-rocketed. For the rest that remained, they battled to fight depression and the many other symptoms that plagued them as a result of the change in gravity.
Walker spins an eerily believable tale of what would happen if The Slowing ever did take place. Her style seems more literary than dystopian to me. Although there are many long narratives, Walker's beautiful prose still held my interest. Here is just one example:
"And it seems to me now that the slowing triggered certain other changes too, less visible at first but deeper. It disrupted certain subtler trajectories: the tracks of friendships, for example, the paths toward and away from love. But who am I to say that the course of my childhood was not already set long before the slowing? Perhaps my adolescence was only an average adolescence, the stinging a quite unremarkable stinging. There is such a thing as coincidence: the alignment of two or more seemingly related events with no causal connection. Maybe everything that happened to me and to my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It's possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much."
Narrator Emily Janice Card is new-to-me, and I thought that her voice was perfectly suited for young Julia. Her tone has an ethereal, dream-like quality, which I really enjoyed.
This is Walker's debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from her!
MY RATING: 4 stars!! It was really good, and you should put it on your "To Be Read" list.
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
What I liked best about The Age of Miracles is that it made me think. Walker's plot is a very unique idea, that the Earth's rotation is decelerating and the book chronicles many of the environmental and societal problems caused by The Slowing through Julia, the 11 year-old narrator. I did have some problems with the lack of scientific details, inconsistencies (school remains open, utilities seem to work fine, but trees, whales, and birds are dying in massive numbers), and some things that just plain didn't make sense (wheat can no longer be grown, but peanut butter is available? Peanuts are a fairly temperature sensitive crop, and even with adequate water, temperatures above 95 degrees F can severely impair development of the crop.) What saves this from being a true disaster of a book is that Walker uses Julia to remind us that even in the face of a huge environmental disaster which we can't fix or control, life in some way still goes on. Julia poignantly talks about her loneliness, 6th grade, and embarrassment at not yet wearing a bra, while the Earth and society are changing in ways that can't be predicted.
This book made me think about the concept of time, and it probably didn't hurt that I saw The Fabric of Time Nova episode while I was reading the book. The book also made me think about our own environment, as The Slowing seemed to be loosely linked to climate change. It probably also didn't hurt that I read Bill McKibben's terrifying article in Rolling Stone while I was reading this book.
I give The Age of Miracles a solid 3.5, rounded up because it made me think about so many other connected concepts. I only wish that Walker had better written her really original idea.
This is one of the best books I've read all year. I was enthralled in what really could be a realistic end of the world as we know it. Told from the viewpoint of an 11 year old, her viewpoint is fascinating and innocent. You are looking at the world through her eyes as the confusion unfolds all around you.
I ignore genre labels. Some of my favorite books are outside my genre comfort zone. Listening to audiobooks is still reading. Not theater.
I always feel foolish when I begin a book that I know is going to be sad based on the synopsis and reviews, proves itself to be sad from the very first page and continues incessantly in that same vein throughout the book, yet I still hang on hoping for just a glimmer of redeeming happiness until the bitter end. That is what happened with this book. There was absolutely nothing that even hinted that this might be a tragic story with a miraculously happy ending. Yet I continued to hope. Probably the main reason I have generally avoided the whole "end of the word" genre in the past.
This book was mercilessness in its doom and gloom. No matter how deeply you dug, there was no silver lining. However, that isn't to say it wasn't a well written book with an engaging young girl as the central character. The author did a great job of engaging the reader, keeping the interest level up with enough suggestions and hints, even if none of the hinted at or suggested positive events or actions ever happened. You knew none of them would come to fruition, but you had to hope.
My original complaint with the character was that she seemed far too mature for her years. She was only 11 when catastrophe struck, but she reacted like a person 3 times her age would be expected to react. However, as I progressed through the book I realized how quickly an 11 year old would be forced to grow up in that situation, so the further I got into the story the more natural her maturity level seemed.
I thought the author did a great job of presenting a plausible "end" to the world. Nothing that happened seemed totally unrealistic or didn't fit with the facts of the situation. The most disturbing concern I had with her scenario is none of the experts seemed to be able to explain what happened or why. You would like to think that in this age of science if a similar event occurred we might not be able to alter its course or stop it, but we could figure out what happened and why.
The author also did a good job of bringing the catastrophic event and its consequences down to a personal level so the reader could relate. Discussions about shifts or tears in the magnetic field may not make a great deal of sense, but a simple statement like "That was the last grape I ever ate." made the crisis relatable.
There is absolutely nothing uplifting about this story. But it is definitely worth reading. It makes you stop and think about the plausibility of such an event and how you would react in that situation.
The narrator on the audiobook did a very good job.
I highly recommend.
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I thought it was a plausible apocalyptic-tale about what would happen if the Earth stopped spinning and despite the extreme premise, it didn’t feel far fetched!
It’s told from the point of view of an eleven year old girl growing up in this new changing world; examining her evolving relationship with her parents, her fragile friendships, her first boyfriend… Real life going on while the planet around them changes forever.
Many of the negative reviews say that this book was too much “coming of age Young Adult Fiction” and not enough “Science Fiction” but so what, it was still great!
I raced through it in one sitting, glued to the story and curious about what would happen next and how would it end… For me, it was a total page turner.
I really wanted to love this book.......it had such an intriguing storyline....but in the end I found it just okay with never much excitement or punch to it.
I liked the fact that the book was written from an 11 year old girl's perspective....it's not often you get that kind of insight.....and there was a bit of foreshadowing that would cause you to want to hurry and find out what was going to happen.....but I always found that the answer was slightly dull and boring.
It was not a happy book....which is to be expected because of the subject matter......but I just felt it dragged along and the ending was probably the best part of the entire book. I guess I am just one of those in the minority who wasn't blown away by this book.....and that's okay by me. :)
The narrator, Emily Janice Card, brings a pitch-perfect winsomeness to her performance of a young woman remembering and sensing her experiences on the edge of adolescence.
No, I didn't feel this story pulled me in so much that I wanted to listen a second time.
I loved the vivid descriptions of the environmental changes that happen as the worlds slows it's spin. I found myself looking up at the sun when I went outside so much more aware of it's power after listening to this book.
The reader captured the feeling behind the words quite well.
This book moves slowly as the entire premise of the book is a "slowing". Not so say it was boring slow just developed at a steady pace which made it a read I could put down, think about for a while, then pick back up again.
Based on some of the negative reviews, I almost passed this one up, but a few of the 4 and 5 star reviews convinced me otherwise. I'm glad they did, because I really loved this book and feel it deserves all of the positive press it's been getting this summer. TAOM "reads" like a tone poem -- slow, meditative, elegiac. The pace drags in a few places, but the author's luminous prose and evocative descriptions more than make up for any lack of action. The reader is OUTSTANDING, one of the best I've heard in a long time. She gives each character their own distinctive voice, and brings such care and thoughtfulness to her narration, you'd think it was her own novel. Overall, a great story and beautiful listening experience.
Late in the novel, the father of Julia (the main character) asks his daughter "Do you know what a paradox is?" which kind of sums it up. This novel is a strange brew of contradictory aims and voices, ultimately leading to disappointment. As other reviewers have noted, the story is mostly about teenage (actually preteen) angst with mean behavior from the popular cliques at school, played out in lunchrooms, school buses, and pool parties. It is hard to fit in and figure out who you are, make sense of your parents troubled marriage, say the right things to the boy you have a mad crush on, and keep up with math homework, soccer practice, and piano lessons. Oh and the world is coming to gruesome, horrible end as the Earth stops revolving.
If you are looking for a poignant coming of age story this might be the book for you, although I wonder if the "end of the world" context really adds anything. If you are a hard core scifi/futuristic/dystopia fan, there isn't much here. Bad stuff is apparently happening out there, but without the details or imagination that would make it truly scary or plausible.
If there is a "message" here (not that there needs to be one) it may have to do with the human capacity to tune out larger catastrophes as we remain focused on the day to day crises of life.
The narration is excellent.
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