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The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles (edition 2012)

by Karen Thompson Walker

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2,2172682,919 (3.67)137
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An ordinary coming of age story set in extraordinary circumstances, this debut novel is beautifully written and true to the perspective of it's 11-year old narrator, Julia. All of the uncertainty, resentment and angst of adolescence are captured while the details of a worldwide catastrophe throw the banality of everyday life into stark relief. ( )
  katiekrug | Jun 9, 2012 |
English (273)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (279)
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I picked this book up for two reasons. First, it was recommended for people who enjoyed Black Moon. Second, I liked the premise, which is that the earth continues to slow down. I liked it well enough. The writing is well done, and the story, which follows an eleven-year old girl named Julia, is compelling. It is written in first-person so that you get her view of this quirky apocalypse where days and nights grow longer and the earth slowly goes out of whack.

Two things held me back on giving it a higher rating. One, this is very young YA romance, and that just isn't my bucket. Two, this book, like Black Moon, has one group of people hating another group of people, and I just have a hardy time buying into that conflict. In this case, society starts to split as the days and nights lengthen. There are clock-people, who still stick to the more-and-more archaic 24-hour clock, and there are the real-timers, who abandon the 24-hour clock and appreciate the length of days and nights in their own time. For some reason, clock people hate real-timers to the point of this becoming akin to a deep prejudice. Even writing that down, it sounds silly to me, like the different cultures of the Butter Battle Book. And maybe that is the point of that particular conflict, but every time it appeared in the book, it broke my suspension of belief.

I give it three stars, though, because it was still a good read, the writer is very adapt at her trade, and I would like to read more from her. This one just wasn't me. ( )
  DougGoodman | Apr 7, 2016 |
In The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel, Julia is an eleven year old living in a Southern California suburb and a sixth grader in middle school when it happened: the earth's rotation started to slow. "It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe (pg. 12)" Julia recounts the surreal events occurring around her while she is navigating the tumultuous time of middle school/ junior high and puberty. In The Age of Miracles Julia is dealing with things that are endemic to her age, which are juxtaposed to the world wide catastrophe unfolding around her. As the "slowing" increases, the lengthening of both the day and night, it baffles scientists, and there are more and more global repercussions.

I really enjoyed Julia as the narrator in The Age of Miracles. She's an observant, honest narrator. Her voice rang true. She is a quiet, observant girl, an only child who takes careful note of everything that is occurring around her. Yes, there are catastrophic changes happening, but, to someone her age, losing friends, getting a bra, or liking a boy can all feel just as earth shattering. She is dealing with the day to day realities while living with and observing the inexplicable world changing events of the slowing. She mentions events happening from the slowing, birds falling out of the sky and a division between the "real timers" versus the "clock timers," placed in the context of her daily life.

Rather than a traditional science fiction tale, The Age of Miracles is a coming-of-age story with a science fiction element to the plot. Julia is looking back, as an adult, telling the story of what happened to her when the slowing first started. As Julia says: "This was 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 (pg. 43)." She's going to mention many of the disastrous details, but they are believably mixed with details from her life. It is reminiscent of people recalling where they were or what they were doing during any disaster. No matter the scale of the disaster, you look back at the before and after of the event through your eyes and your experiences. Changes or disasters, large and small, are all placed in the context of your life when you retell them. You try to make connections to make some sense of what you know is to come.

Julia observes: "And it sees to me now that the slowing triggered certain other changes too, less visible at first but deeper. It disrupted certain subtler trajectories: the track of friendships, for example, the paths toward and away from love. But who am I to say that the course of my childhood was not already set long before the slowing? Perhaps my adolescence was only an average adolescence, the stinging a quite unremarkable stinging. There is such a thing as coincidence: the alignment of two or more seemingly related events with no causal connection. Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much (pg. 33-34).

Since The Age of Miracles is the story of one year in the life of someone who is an eleven-going-on-twelve-year-old girl, the age of the narrator would generally place this as a young adult novel, but a case could be made that it is more of an adult novel because it is an adult looking back. On the other hand, I could generally see a younger audience liking this novel too. Certainly Julia's concerns come across as realistic from someone that age. And, although there are disasters happening, they are not graphic or violent. The writing is simple, eloquent, and compelling.

The Age of Miracles is an exquisite debut novel. Very Highly Recommended

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I liked the prose in this novel. It fit the book perfectly. There was a slow rhythm to the book, a gradual slowing to life just like to the earth. Nothing crazy happened, it was not the usual kind of dystopia which is more like standing on top if the roof shouting. Here we just watched those on the roof.

Julia is 11 when the earth starts moving slower. There is much to deal with. White nights, long cold dark days when the sun never rises. The world is crumbling around them. Life needs darkness and light to survive, but here they get to much of both. Gravity is turned on its head, the magnetic fields suffer. But people try to go on, they try to cope, they have hope. And that is the beauty in this book, life goes on. Sure there is looting, sure people goes into hiding, but we watch a normal family adjusting to the slowing. All while the main character Julia is dealing with her own crisis. There is s boy she likes, her friends grown apart. It's a coming of age story in an age of silent despair.

The slow building melancholia hit me in the end. Marvelous. It felt real, it felt scary. No one knew why it happened, but it happened. An earth that does not turn, well turn fast anyway.

This was dystopia that I liked. It was scary in another sort of way. It kind of does not hit you at first. It creeps up upon you and festers like a bad sore. Dystopia does not need to be all violence and crazy turn of events. It can be silent too.

A great book that I recommend. Just get into the rhythm. ( )
  blodeuedd | Mar 2, 2016 |
I liked the speculative aspect of this novel - what would happen if the world's rotation began to slow down? I liked Julia's voice in the novel - seeing her world change while still going through the typical experiences of a 11/12 year old girl. In the end, though, I felt like the story just ended, without any satisfying conclusions or explanations. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Feb 26, 2016 |
Really fascinating concept, and Walker does a good job of imagining how this change in the intrinsic nature of our everyday lives will impact one particular adolescent girl's life. ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
A Post-Apocalyptic Book Club Selection.
I enjoyed this book; it was a bit different than your typical apocalyptic novel. No rough men marching the wastelands here, no cannibal gangs desperate for survival.
Instead, we see the slow apocalypse through the eyes of a young girl. For the young, everything is new... so the gradual falling apart of civilization is somehow equivalent to the more mundane traumas of adolescence.
The earth's rotation is slowing, and in many ways this is a slow-moving book. it's also sweet and evocative. I felt like the author is probably referencing tropes of a whole genre of books that I don't really read... mainstream literary fiction that's kind of woman-oriented and deals with quotidian drama, perhaps? She's taking this and meshing it with the end of the world... and overall, I felt that it worked.
I particularly liked how, faced with an inevitable disaster of unprecedented scope, society here starts focusing on completely inconsequential things (such as which hours of a lengthened day people choose to sleep)and basing hatred and bigotry on these things. So typical.
However, the book doesn't give a wholly negative view on humanity - there are heartbreakingly touching moments, as well an effective depiction of the drive to persevere, even in the face of hopelessness. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Beautifully written, epically bleak. ( )
  lovelypenny | Feb 4, 2016 |
The story of the gradual end of the world told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl. With the Earth's rotation slowing, Julia's life manages to maintain some sort of normalcy - loneliness and awkwardness are more troubling to her than the slow disintegration of life. I liked the way things progressed slowly - everyone tries to maintain the fiction that life is going on as before, that things will somehow be okay (although surely there'd have been more rioting/crime than seems to occur in this version of events). I wondered if this was meant to reflect the kind of self-absorption of a 12 year old and her inability to take in the dramatic changes that were unfolding around her.

Other reviewers have critiqued the science of the book, but the author sets up the slowing of the earth as a kind of magic - something beyond the understanding of humanity - and I think that gives her leeway to be loose with its effects. It's a striking concept as written here anyway.

In the end I didn't quite care enough about the narrator (in the end this is basically a coming of age story), but the writing was dreamily effective and the idea bold enough to carry the book. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
Really great premise, and I loved the intertwining of Julia's life as a normal pre-teenager, experiencing all those lovely things that middle school forces you to confront (body insecurities, broken friendships, shifting social patterns, emerging sexuality), and the very serious threat of the world ending as the human race knows it. (How many of us felt like that at that age, when the universe was unraveling around us?) However, I felt like at some times the phrasing of Julia's thoughts felt repetitive and with forced perspective to the future: "we didn't know things would be like this..."; "only later did we realize..."; "much has been studied about this since...". I might have preferred the story told in present tense, instead of this whole reflection that Julia seems to be having in her twenties to the first year of the slowing. Although, on the other hand, it does frame the story nicely, in that Julia is able to recall how she felt when she was at that age versus how she thinks of things "now". ( )
  elle-kay | Jan 27, 2016 |
A colleague highly recommended this book to me, but oh dear, it was terrible. I didn't like the narrator at all, and nothing ever happened except go to school and come home again. Considering the rotation of the planet had slowed and humans were being threatened with extinction, you would think there would be a sense of urgency throughout the book, but it just flat-lined. Not only did Earth's rotation slow until a day lasted 70 hours, so did the plot. With only 288 pages, it felt double that and I thought the end was never going to come. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 23, 2016 |
What if you woke up one day to discover that the day and night cycles were becoming progressively longer; that the earth's rotation was slowing down. Would you continue to operate on clock time or would you shift to real time? What if the government allowed compliance to one or the other option to be voluntary? How would you behave toward the other group? How would the migratory and other animals be affected? What about the tides and weather? These are the issues that our protagonist, 11-year old Julia, experience as she attempts to lead a normal childhood, e.g., school, friends, childhood crushes, parent - daughter relationships within an apocalyptic situation.

This debut fiction was disturbing as the earth's rotation causes the days, periods of light and dark, to expand to multiples of their traditional 24 hours lengths and society is disrupted. This novel effected me as viscerally as when an elementary school general science book discussed how life on the earth would end when the sun was extinguished. If the author's subsequent work is as emotional as this one, I will definitely pick up the next novel.

( )
  John_Warner | Jan 19, 2016 |
Not a typical read for me but I really enjoyed it. I appreciated the rich descriptions and emotions that I don't find in the mysteries I generally read. ( )
  becka11y2 | Jan 19, 2016 |
A good young adult read about a world where the Earth's rotation is gradually and systematically slowing. It has all of the feel of "Life As We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer, without the component of sudden change. There is really no sense of panic in this novel. In that sense, it is much more unrealistic than "Life". However, it was an easy book to read, with likable characters. I will read more by this author. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be. Instead of a book that deals with the implications of a world that loses it's rotation, this story was about children on the cusp of adolescence growing up in a slightly altered world and dealing with normal adolescent things, like parental problems, losing friends and liking boys. I liked the premise, the setting of the book but I really wanted to know more about earth's problem and less about Julia's problems. The ending felt really rushed. There was no real explanation about how the loss of rotation ultimately affects the world long term. Too bad. Perhaps it was just written for a young audience and didn't want to get into the details. If that's the case I will have to be more careful about searching out the audiences of books before I put them on my lists. ( )
  Kassilem | Jan 6, 2016 |
A little heavy-handed with foreshadowing as a literary device ("that was before the..." and, "we didn't know yet that..."--That sort of thing). But overall a compulsive page turner and a beautifully down-to-earth story set against a sci-fi backdrop that will give you nightmares. The Age of Miracles has all the bittersweet poignancy you expect in a coming of age novel without waxing too treacly. I recommend. Do not read the author's blurb if you are a perfectionist writer with a bent toward envy. ( )
  mermaidatheart | Dec 1, 2015 |
beautiful book, really enjoyed it! Review soon... ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
I started it and couldn't put it down. ( )
  DavidCady | Nov 19, 2015 |
How many times have you wished for more hours in a day? I do it all the time, either when I want an extra day of sleep, or when I have tons to complete in an impossible time span. In The Age of Miracles, your wish comes true - the days start getting longer. It's called "the slowing," and days grow longer, sometimes by hours, sometimes by minutes. But when you're wishing for extra time to accomplish things, you don't think about the consequences - and there are intense consequences.

     Daylight might last longer than twelve (or twenty, or forty) hours, but that means night lasts just as long. There's confusion over how to account for time; schools are unattended, businesses don't know when to open. The government eventually insists that the world continue on our standard twenty-four hour clock, now called "clock time." However, some portions of the population want to live naturally: they stay up during daylight, even if the sun is still shining at 2am; they try to sleep for the entire time of darkness. As "clock time" becomes widely accepted, those who live on "real time" are harassed until they leave to form their own communities.

     There are also issues of the slowing of the earth's rotation affecting tides, gravity, and global warming. When the sun shines for over twenty-four hours straight, it gets too hot to go outside. You get sunburned through your clothes. Likewise, the long stretches of night get unbearably cold.

     In the middle of this changing landscape is Julia, an eleven-year-old girl who is trying to find her place in her school's social standing, her family, and herself. She is incredibly wise, despite living in a time of unknown variables. She struggles with loneliness, keeping friends, and becoming close to the boy on whom she's had a long-term crush.

     The concept itself is fascinating and took over my mind from start to finish, and still has a grip on my imagination. It is also beautifully written. Certain sentences were so perfect, I teared up. Though the concept is (hopefully!) impossible and fantastic, the whole idea, paired with gorgeous writing, really makes you appreciate things you have now. Ex: When a spaceship was sending up a disc of information about the history of the 21st century, in case there are others in the universe who might someday find it, Julia notes, "Not mentioned on the disc was the smell of cut grass in high summer, the taste of oranges on our lips, the way sand felt beneath our bare feet…" ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
The premise of this story is unique, a storyline no one (that I know of) has ever written about in the past.

I also really liked the main character, Julia. Despite the potentially catastrophic global event that is being covered day and night by the news, she behaves much like an ordinary teen would - by watching her parents reactions to what's happening, worrying about her family and how they will deal with what may be coming, all the while maneuvering through the day to day dramas of today's current teen environment. Old friends come and go, new friendships are forged, and meanwhile, in the background, there is the constant presence of this "slowing," and Julia's observations about how the people around her are handling it.

Given what was happening, I was really curious as to how the author was going to conclude her story, and when I got the end, I had mixed feelings. Eventually, I decided it was realistic, yet I had wished for something more, and I think that's because I was enjoying the story so much. Her sentences are beautiful in many ways, although there were times I thought she was overdoing the analogies to some degree. But in the next paragraph, she'd break out a line that would make my heart clutch.

All in all, this book deserves five stars... ( )
  DonnaEverhart | Oct 27, 2015 |
I had such high hopes for this book. It had gotten lots of good press, and it sounded like a new type of apocalyptic story. Instead, it was a rather bland coming-of-age story that just happened to take place in a world where suddenly things were changing.

One day, Julia Walker wakes up and the Earth's rotation is slowing. The implications of this far-reaching but they take a back seat to Julia's story of growing up in this environment. The writing style was a bit detached, and seemed to keep the disastrous changes at a distance. And the story focused on Julia's trials and tribulations with school, friends, her family, and that boy she likes.

And I was just very disappointed at the ending, which seemed a bit of a cop out, glossing over events between early teenager to young adulthood, and foreshadowing to the inevitable extinction of life on the Earth. ( )
  wisemetis | Aug 28, 2015 |
The rotation of the earth slows and days and nights both become longer and longer. How can you determine what time it is when the sun is shining continually for 30 hours? What is more difficult to handle - 30 hours of sunlight or 30 hours of darkness? What happens when the "wheat point" is reached, that is when there is not enough sunlight to grow wheat? This story is told through he eyes of Julia, a rather lonely sixth-grader in California. The premise of the story was quite interesting, but I was expecting a bit more of an ending. Perhaps the explanation is from a T. S. Elliot poem: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper." ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
I just couldn't put this one down. It felt like a simple read, yet there was so much power in each of Julia's observations & realizations. The brevity of the writing truly reflects what I found to be two impactful discoveries of Julia's: 1."Sometimes the saddest stories take the fewest words." & 2. When faced with the choice of what words to leave behind that would most likely survive their time on earth, she & Seth settled on "the truest, simplest things" they knew. I felt as though I were experiencing the same uncertainty, confusion & dread that would arise in any similar situation involving sudden & drastic changes to the earth. ( )
  PiperUp | Aug 14, 2015 |
It was difficult to get into this book, but once I did and accepted what I saw, I was repaid. It was somewhat frustrating to accept that the narrator had no answers for what was happening around her. It turned out to be a somewhat maudlin ending. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Spellbinding, haunting, The Age of Miracles is a beautiful novel of catastrophe and survival, growth and change, the story of Julia and her family as they struggle to live in an extraordinary time. On an ordinary Saturday, Julia awakes to discover that something has happened to the rotation of the earth. The days and nights are growing longer and longer, gravity is affected, the birds, the tides, human behavior and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray. In a world of danger and loss, Julia faces surprising developments in herself, and her personal world—divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by Hannah and other friends, the vulnerability of first love, a sense of isolation, and a rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking story of people finding ways to go on, in an ever-evolving world. ( )
  camtb | Jun 27, 2015 |
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