Monday, July 2, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Summary (Courtesy of GoodReads): 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.

And here's what I thought:  I believe this is one of the best books I have read this year (so far).

As you can see from the summary, the big issue in this story is that the Earth's rotation is slowing down.  At first, time lengthens by only a few minutes, but as it continues to slow down, the impact on the environment begins to increase.   And the impact of the increase in time doesn't stop with the environment, but starts to affect people directly (which makes complete sense, considering how tied we are to our 24-hour clock).

What I found really interesting about this book was the combination of the scary environmental impact of the slowing rotation (birds begin to die, crops won't grow, etc.), and how those changes affect everyone, and Julia's personal story.  I never got the impression that Julia is self-absorbed --- rather, we experience the story through her eyes, so we understand what is happening to her, personally, but also, what is happening to the world around her.  So, it's a coming-of-age story in a world that is starting to change in terrifying ways.

The inside flap of this book says, "With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller," the author has created this story.  I don't think I could say it better (which is why I quoted it) -- the way the story is told, and the even pacing, just kept me turning the pages.  I sometimes felt like I was reading faster and faster, rushing headlong into the story, towards disaster ... but I couldn't stop.  I needed to know what was going to happen to Julia, and to the Earth.  The author didn't always go into super-detailed explanations of what was happening environmentally, but gave me just enough to understand what was going on --- and this makes sense, considering the age of our narrator.  A young girl wouldn't have the full scientific explanations and implications, but she'd have the understanding she was getting from the news, her parents, and the people around her.   I also thought the author did a nice job with the characters, and exploring how the slowing of time affects how people react to not only the overall situation, but also to one another.

I have seen various reviews on GoodReads, and  like most stories, some people really like this book, while others didn't find it to be an amazing read.  Personally, it resonated with me, and I really enjoyed it.  

First lines:  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.  We were distracted back then by weather and war.  We had no interest in the turning of the earth.


Anonymous said...

This seems worth checking out-- what an interesting premise, too!

Booksnyc said...

I really liked this one too - the writing was excellent and I thought the book was very well done.

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