Review: The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

the age of miraclesLuminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

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.

Rating: 3/5

I find that I actually enjoy reading adult post-apocalyptic fiction more than I do YA – this is a generalisation, of course, but generally the YA dystopia is focused on the action of the now, while the adult ones tend to provide a wider look at the disintegrating world around them. (I’m thinking of Station Eleven, The Road, etc.)

Here, The Age of Miracles is really more of a coming-of-age tale, set against the backdrop of a world – and society – that is falling apart. To paraphrase the great T.S. Eliot, the world here is indeed ending with more of a whimper than a bang, and the narrative reflects this. The pace is fairly slow, although the prose is certainly introspective, and we see the beginning of the end of the world through the eyes of 12 year old Julia, as she navigates the typical awkwardness of adolescence, friendships, crushes, self-consciousness and parents, all of which is exacerbated by the very real turmoil of natural disasters and humanity on the brink.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the science – but I don’t think that the plausibility is really the focus of the book. We get snippets of information, that provide enough information for the reader to accept the reality and continue on with the story – which I think is all that’s needed in this case.

If you’re looking for a quieter end of the world saga, that focuses primarily on one family’s drama, then this is one for you to try.

 

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11 thoughts on “Review: The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

  1. I really loved this book. Thinking back on it, what you said about adult post-apocalyptic fiction makes a lot of sense. YA tends to be far more dramatic and action-filled, focused on the personal issues of the main character and how the end of the world has aggravated them, and in comparison, Age of Miracles is refreshing in its “calm” (or like you said, “quieter”) approach to the apocalypse. Great review! 🙂

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  2. Well, I think I will try it, thanks, Hannah. It sounds different, and both the quiet and the family drama are attractive to me. I just hope I won’t get stuck on whether the science makes sense or not, lol. Sometimes that happens to me, and it completely ruins my reading experience! Have a great week 🙂

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    1. Ha, yes, it’s always tricky – if the premise doesn’t make sense, then the reading experience can definitely be sucky. But since the natural phenomena in this novel take place more in the background, there’s less focus on the specific details

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  3. I totally agree with your first paragraph. YA has to be more fast paced and all, but I prefer the other view of events – more interesting that way. Have you read The Stand by Stephen King? Great post-apocalyptic novel. Very long but very worth it too. I think you’d like it.

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  4. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for ages and have been meaning to get around to reading it for a good couple of months now. I’m totally with you on the adult dystopia/ya dystopia pacing. I certainly love both approaches, but for me, the slow unravelling of the world is somehow a lot more impactful than the in-your-face action. It’s one of the big reasons The Girl with All the Gifts is such a huge favourite of mine. Either way, I’m going to have to get around to reading this one at some point! Lovely review, as always Hannah! ❤ ❤

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    1. It’s also quite a quick-ish read, since the chapters are fairly short. Traditional YA dystopia does have its place when I feel like some action/adventure, but like you said, the slow unravelling of the world and it’s impact on society is far more fascinatin g to me.

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  5. Interesting – I hadn’t thought about the difference between adult and YA post-apocalyptic fiction. I think that the only adult book I’ve read in that genre is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. All in all, these are not my favorite kinds of books because they’re so depressing and lately I need books that aren’t depressing…
    Jen @ YA Romantics

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