Luminous, 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.
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.