The Age of Miracles is an amazing book–a dystopia that reads like the front page and echoes the dark scariness of the crumbling world we live in. The earth is slowing in Karen Thompson Walker’s fictional account. Days and nights are getting longer and almost at once time goes completely off the rails. The birds begin to die, gravity is affected, droughts and tides intensify, people panic. Julia is eleven on the day they announce the news and this is a coming of age novel in which everything in her personal and planetary world will be stood on its head.
Julia’s best friend Hanna leaves at once for a Mormon encampment in Utah with her family. The oceanfront Cailfornia properties are immediately abandoned as the sea washes over them at high tide. Julia’s mother starts to hoard emergency supplies and her father keeps delivering babies at the hospital. Seth, the skateboarder who is Julia’s secret crush, continues to ignore her but nasty bullies at her bus stop don’t. It starts to be dark when the sun should come up and stays light far past bedtime. Six astronauts are trapped at the space station because it is too dangerous to bring them back.
This is a pick-it-up-don’t-put-it-down book that reminds you of how perilous it is to be on the cusp of adolescence and then ratchets that challenge up a million times as the earth spins slowly–and more slowly–into a dead zone. The governments declare “clock time” that follows the old twenty-four hours even though the days and nights don’t sync. Some people cling to “real time” and hostilities break out. Julia’s grandfather suspects a conspiracy and starts to act distressingly weird. Julia spies her father through the window of her piano teacher’s house across the street, through her telescope. He is not taking a piano lesson. Hundreds of whales beach themselves and Seth invites Julia to the beach to try to save them.
That’s enough story. You should acquire a copy of this book at once and read it. Tremendously good, subtle, polished and true. My only quibble is that it seems so real, such a simple extension of our time, that it left me slightly depressed about the apocalypse of our civilization–the snowballing calamities people madly pretend do not exist. Our earth is off-kilter and losing its moorings. We are out of alignment, wide-eyed at the destruction all around us and wondering what’s next, waiting and hoping for miracles with none, so far, in sight.
The Age of Miracles: A Novel Karen Thompson Walker | Random House 2012