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The Age of Miracles: A Novel | [Karen Thompson Walker]

The Age of Miracles: A Novel

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Karen Portland, OR, United States 07-07-12
    Karen Portland, OR, United States 07-07-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Not sure I can measure up..."

    ...to the excellent quality of the reviews that have already been written here about Age Of Miracles. Like others have commented, YA is not my usual genre, and if this book had not been marketed as speculative fiction, I would surely have missed it.

    I'm very glad that I did not. Seeing the changing world through young Julia's eyes is quite remarkable, and the author maintains a rhythm and a style (throughout nearly all of the book) that is both consistent and powerful. "Of course," I eventually thought, "this is exactly the way it would happen. People would continue to live their lives, fall in love, argue with family members, interact with their pets, make plans, have dreams of the future." This simple and pure quality is what distinguishes The Age of Miracles from other dystopian fiction I have read, and it takes the voice of a child on the brink of adulthood to convey it.

    I also agree, however, that the ending is abrupt, and damages the otherwise smooth flow of the novel. I'm not sure what else there was to say, but the transition of years could have been more artful, and I am surprised that her editors did not insist on it.

    While this is not always the case, I am quite certain that I would not have enjoyed this book as much in print. Emily Janice Card takes on a challenging task and does it flawlessly. She is apparently in synch with the author's intentions and does not distort the characters with her own interpretations. I sometimes think that the worst readers sit down with a book, completely unfamiliar with it and its intentions, signal for the mike to go live, and start to read. Clearly, Ms. Card understood this book before she began, and it is a masterful performance.

    To those of you who are undecided about spending a credit for this book, I urge you to do so. I seldom just sit and listen to a book, preferring to let the book accompany me as I do dishes, clean house, or paint. I sat and listened to this book until it was finished. I will not forget it soon.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 06-27-12
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 06-27-12 Member Since 2010

    I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.

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    "Childlike Innocence Tinged With Adult Regret"

    There's been buzz about this book for quite a while now, and I have anxiously awaited it's arrival. While other books in similar situations recently have been a disappointment, this book deserves the recognition it's quickly garnered.

    Our story is told by Julia, an 11 year old only child of a doctor and part-time teacher. She is enjoying a happy, typical childhood in Southern California, until the fateful Saturday that the news goes public; the rotation of the earth is slowing.

    As both days and nights continue to grow in length over time, and the 24 hour clock looses all meaning in relation to the days and nights, the entire landscape of Julia's childhood and anticipated future begin to change. Some of these changes are easily anticipated, while others come as more of a surprise.

    The book is told in past tense; allowing you to wonder as you progress through her story where Julia is now, and who we, her anticipated audience, are to be. The other benefit of the past tense is that while the story is being framed from the point of view of an 11 year old child, there is a subtle undercurrent of adult regret in the telling, as the older Julia tells us of that terrible first year of "the slowing". There is also something adult in Julia's growing discomfort of clocks; ticking away time she fears they no longer have, propelling them into a future she doesn't think she wants. The narration, performed by Emily Janice Card (yes, Orson Scott Card's daughter) also added greatly to the tone of the book, mixing child-like storytelling with tones of quiet nostalgia adults will recognize and respond to.

    The author was very true to her point of view; at one point I found myself frustrated that we still hadn't really heard much about the economic fallout of the situation, until I realized; through the lens of an 11 year old girl, the focus will fall onto other matters. Once embraced, that fact seems to give the story it's authenticity.

    At 9 hours in length, this book is not long; but as 11 year old Julia acknowledges, "Sometimes the saddest stories take the fewest words."

    A well written, well read, sad and touching story.

    31 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melinda UT 06-29-12
    Melinda UT 06-29-12 Member Since 2009

    So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.

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    "Dear Diary, Met a Boy & the World is Ending"

    Age of Miracles has been on every "best summer novel", for months now, appealing to fans of speculative fiction with its brief description about a dystopian world. What was not mentioned is the specific target audience for the book - and there was a reason. Originally the book was aimed at a YA audience, then found to be too slow and unexciting enough for that particular market--(saturated as it is with fantastical supernatural creatures and amped up romance) Age of Miracles was actively re-marketed as an adult speculative fiction; suddenly gaining rave reviews from publishers and critics everywhere. Unfortunate for the YA market, and an unexpectedly sweet addition for adult readers. NOW I know that, but it took Walker's beautiful and smooth style, and the pure authentic voice of Julia to lure me in and thoroughloy convince me this was a book for adults. I relate this for a reason...

    YA books are not my preferred genre. At the onset, I was disappopinted, thinking I had somehow been duped into purchasing a YA novel, and thus was expected to relate to the everyday events of a 12 yr. old girl. As the book progressed, I still wasn't loving this. I felt like I was being read a 7th grader's Dear Diary, listening as she wrote about training bras, boys, and snooty cliques - all more important than the sudden mysterious global changes. But, what author Karen Walker does so effortlessly and well is keep true and authentic to young Julia's view and voice; and I found myself getting to know this girl, and becoming engrossed in her sincere story. And suddenly the book worked for me.

    Parents sometimes joke that egocentric teenagers see themselves as the center of everything, and the events of the world as a backdrop; but it is that concept that makes this story so appealing, and prevents the "spin" or scientific accounting of events from turning this story into just another end of the world read (which is actually all somewhat irrelevant here). Julia is more self aware and observant than this stereotype teen, but still has a bright innocence and naivete that endears her to the listener (reminiscent of the narrator in The Lovely Bones) and makes this story all the more wistful and bittersweet. We care more about this tender, observant young girl than the chaos going on around her. Emily Card does a remarkable, and very convincing job, reading and conveying the emotions of Julia.

    It isn't a big speculative fiction blockbuster; there are no dynamic moments or peaks and valleys, rather, it is a consistent flow from the heart as Julia observes her self, her family, and her world, and the world (planet) on their propspective paths of change. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this book, and the emotion it brings to the surface, and think it works equally well for adults and YA.

    30 of 33 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ms Editor DFW, Texas 09-10-12
    Ms Editor DFW, Texas 09-10-12 Member Since 2012

    Book Editing Associates

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    "Short on the science"

    Another pre-teen love story with another unusual challenge. The Earth's rotation is slowing, and every living thing on the planet must adapt quickly or die.
    Walker focuses mainly on the relationship among characters, and the science receives an honorable mention here and there. Of course, what's happening to the Earth is affecting how everyone behaves (or misbehaves).
    I found the most interesting characters to be the adults, however, especially the relationship between granddaughter and grandfather.
    A decent listen, but mainly for young adult listeners.
    Lynda,

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lene Toronto, Ontario, Canada 10-21-12
    Lene Toronto, Ontario, Canada 10-21-12 Member Since 2004
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    "Unrelenting misery and gloom"
    Any additional comments?

    I like a dystopian novel as much as the next person and this book had a good idea. Unfortunately, the author seemed to have gotten so caught up in the theme that there's no break from the misery. Everything awful that can possibly happen to the 11-year-old protagonist does. It reaches a point where you just want to curl up around her to protect her from the next blow. On top of that, whoever edited this should have paid attention to the continuity errors, excessive use of simile and reined in the foreshadowing (note: foreshadowing can be a useful tool when building tension. When it is used in every single scene in the first quarter of the book, it loses impact). The narrator was excellent, though - she effectively heightened the themes and moods as a good narrator should. The only problem was that this made the whole exercise much more depressing and sad than it already was. And that's saying something. If you want dystopia, read the The Hunger Games instead. Or better yet, The Handmaid's Tale.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janis Lowe 06-30-12
    Janis Lowe 06-30-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Pass the Prozac, please!"

    Great writing, wonderful performance, but without question one of THE most depressing books I have ever encountered -- and truly, I generally LOVE the dark stuff! Ready to pull out an old copy of Lord of the Flies just to cheer myself up after that!

    17 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne SANTA FE, NM, United States 09-21-12
    Anne SANTA FE, NM, United States 09-21-12 Member Since 2003
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    "It's really a book for teens and tweens"
    What did you love best about The Age of Miracles?

    I like the flow. Disaster strikes. The Earth has shifted on its axis causing a steady stream of problems. However, adjustments are made and life continues.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The constant angst expressed by the young main character got old pretty quick. The stream of consequences that follow such a major event was very interesting.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MissSusie66 09-10-12
    MissSusie66 09-10-12 Member Since 2010

    MissSusie

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    "Quiet Dystopian"

    This was an intriguing first novel; the authors imagination is pretty amazing, the way she describes the things that were happening to the world were frightening real. This story is beautifully written and is a slow boil with no running around trying to save the world, there is nothing to run from or run to, it is just living in a mixed up world where days and nights have become confused and the earth has slowed and is de-magnetizing/losing gravity. Just to go on trying to live your life when everything has changed but these changes are not seen and only sometimes felt. As she says it’s not that there are explosions or war or rioting in the streets, the world is not on fire it is just quietly changing.

    “Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different—unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.”
    ― Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

    This is such a different dystopian because it’s well, quiet, is the only word I can come up with, it is a quiet dystopian, yes that describes it. And even as that I was enthralled with this book I didn’t want to stop listening I wanted to know what happened next. It ended just as quietly and it was a satisfying ending.

    I don’t know how old Julia was supposed to be (listening on audio must have missed it) but I thought Emily Janice Card did a good job at the narration she made her sound not too young or too old. Her narration was very well done.

    4 Stars

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Reno, NV, United States 09-03-12
    Mark Reno, NV, United States 09-03-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Too slight and narrator reads too slowly"
    Any additional comments?

    The book was all right, in that I finished it. But I wouldn't have read it knowing what I know now. The main problem is that the book is too slight.

    I knew this was the story of the Earth slowing and life being upended as seen through the eyes of a youngish girl so I wasn't expecting "The Stand" or "The Road" but I just didn't think the observations were deep enough and there wasn't any action. Some young adult literature works for adults but this was just about right for ages 11 to 13 and truly mostly for girls. I can't imagine a boy being interested in the narrator's training bra dilemmas (although I thought it was one of the book's better examples of getting into the character's mind).

    And for a sort of apocalyptic tale, I felt no anxiety about what was happening because it just wasn't told in an interesting way and I felt no grand ideas at play. Disappointing.

    Then there's the narrator who reads so slowly, there's no sense of urgency — although it could be argued that it fits the dazed, melancholy vibe of the narrator. If read at a normal speed, an hour could've been shaved off the running time — and getting the book over with was more important to me since it wasn't very good than having her capture the author's tone.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darlene Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 08-22-12
    Darlene Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 08-22-12 Member Since 2011
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    "An eerily plausible story!"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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