Books

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Julia and her parents are shocked one day by news of an inexplicable disaster in this coming-of-age tale.

The Age of Miracles Book Cover

Julia and her parents are shocked one day by news of an inexplicable disaster in this coming-of-age tale.

“We didn’t notice right away,” says Julia. “We couldn’t feel it.” But that night as she and her parents wait for the sun to set, nothing happens. Street lights come on, yet the sun still shines. The Earth’s rotation has slowed and continues to slow, minute by minute, hour by hour. No one knows why. Nothing can be done.

In the midst of the catastrophe, some try to run, packing up their families and treasured belongings — but how can you escape Earth itself? Others try to adapt to the ever-increasing day length; still others cling to the 24-hour clock, setting alarms to stay on track.

Julia and her parents cope as best they can. Her mother stockpiles food; her father, a doctor, insists on continuing to work; the two drift further and further apart. In many ways, Julia’s concerns remain those of any preteen: friendships, boys, her parents’ arguments and the everyday miracles of middle school, a “time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove.” It cannot be denied, though: Time is wonkily marching on, and Julia is all too wise to the consequences — and the dangers to come.

Karen Thompson Walker’s tight focus on Julia and her family astutely amplifies the tragedy facing all of Earth’s inhabitants. She wisely lets readers fill in the blanks as to how the characters are feeling, and the effect is, ironically, one of heightened emotion — although it seems odd there isn’t more sheer terror depicted, given what’s happening. This debut novel is an immensely moving, unpredictable read that leaves you with the realization that no matter how much things change, they always stay the same.

The Age of Miracles, $26

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