Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel, The Age of Miracles, could be called a coming-of-age story. It could be called speculative fiction. I'm just going to call it an amazing, beautiful debut.

The narrator, Julia, tells the story of the year she was in sixth grade in California, eleven years old on October 6th. That was the night everything changed, the beginning of "the slowing". The rotation of the earth slowed, and the days grew by fifty-six minutes that night. It was just the start of the massive changes to come. Experts predicted the earth would continue to slow its rotation, but no one could have predicted what would happen to the world. Julia's mom, a woman who had once been an actress, might have been known for her drama, but her statement, "Something God-awful is happening," was probably the closest anyone came to predicting the future.

Julia is a loner, an observant girl who is keenly aware of all the changes. She saw her best friend, Hanna, a Mormom, move with her family to Utah. Her mother's habits changed. People packed up and fled, although no one really knew where to go. "It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe." Then, the slowing altered gravity, affecting the birds and even people who developed gravity sickness.

At the same time Julia is aware of all the changes to the world, she's only in sixth grade. She's keenly aware of one boy, Seth Moreno, and she's aware of the cliques in school that exclude her. While the world is changing, physically shutting down, middle school is a time of growth. "Middle school, the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove." There was so much changing in Julia's life that year. She was aware of every overtone between her parents, every attitude and conversation at school, and every change in the world itself. Those were the changes broadcast on TV, the changes in time, the changes in lifestyles to meet the difference in daylight and darkness. But, it was the changes that affected her family that were quieter, but no less important.

Walker's novel is beautiful in the starkness of some of the statements of change.No one knows what would happen if the world started slowing down, but Walker makes educated guesses that are quite believable. And, those suggestions become believable told in the matter-of-fact manner by the narrator, revealing the story of one year in her life when everything changed. Every possibility, every change is depicted with a forthright style.

The Age of Miracles is a lyrical story of the end of the life we all know. This isn't a dystopian novel of governments and technology. It's a beautifully written account of one year when time actually slows down. It's a story that won't be easily forgotten. Karen Thompson Walker's debut is one that will be remembered.

Karen Thompson Walker's website is

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Random House. 2012. ISBN 9780812992977 (hardcover), 269p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

I read this book last week and it was lovely. I wasn't sure where it would go and it was beautifully told.