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.
With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world. – Source
I’m all for books about the end of the world, and everything that comes with that sort of exciting situation in fiction, but The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker was so much more than that. In her debut, the rotation of the Earth has begun to slow down and with it come the changes to the environment: the days continuously grow longer, tide levels increase, gravity changes, birds fall from the sky… Then comes the fear so deeply rooted in human nature: paranoia, chaos, and panic. The main character, Julia, watches as neighbors turn on each other, others fall ill to “the syndrome”, and food supplies grow smaller. It’s all very tumultuous and, perhaps with any other author, everything that takes place in The Age of Miracles could be too much; it could overwhelm the core of the novel. However, Karen Thompson Walker proved more than capable of writing a subtle, quiet, and very personal story amidst all the chaos.
Though technically under the adult fiction category, The Age of Miracles has a lot of crossover appeal for any young adult readers. Karen Thompson Walker’s prose is accessible and it offers depth in its themes and characters. As the world changes around her, much stays the same in Julia’s life: she’s a twelve year old girl enduring the ups and downs of friendships, crushing on boys, figuring out where she fits in at school, and dealing with the changes in her family. The fact that Karen Thompson Walker explored the themes of coming of age made this book so much more relatable. Yes, the world is falling apart, and it was easy to get wrapped up in those elements of the story, but Julia’s uncertainty as she grows up is universal and it’s what truly makes The Age of Miracles a haunting and gripping novel.
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