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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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2,1632663,004 (3.67)135
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 (269)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (275)
Showing 1-25 of 269 (next | show all)
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 |
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 |
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 |
It is a regular Saturday morning when Julia, her family and the rest of the world wake up to the news that the rotation of the Earth is slowing. Already dealing with everything life throws at you when you are eleven years old, the world suddenly becomes a different place. Days get longer, birds fall out of the sky and then there is the sickness. People start to leave their everyday lives, head out on the run – but there is nowhere to go.

I read this in a day. I was just entranced by Julia and Seth and the very way that this story was told. I love that it wasn’t typical YA heroes – instead our two protagonists are only eleven years old, facing a disaster of the most epic scale while dealing with the disasters of the everyday as well. Their characters and their friendship were beautifully portrayed in the face of the impending possible end of the world.

The writing was in this amazing, reflective voice from Julia’s perspective that had the wisdom of her elder self as well as the innocence of her younger self. I never felt her voice was unrealistic – rather it felt kind of magical, as if I was floating on it throughout the novel. The imagery crafted by Walker’s storytelling is vivid and creates the perfect atmosphere, dripping with tension. Although a slow moving story, I found I couldn’t put it down and had to finish it the day I started it, and then I had to talk about it with my non-reading friends. It lead to interesting end of the world discussions and the inevitable question: what would you do?

The Age of Miracles is full of rich characters, from Julia’s parents to her friends and neighbours, and we see how the changing world affects them all through her eyes, as well as experiencing those awkward, challenging and sometimes difficult moments of adolescence. It is a classic coming of age novel set in an uncertain time, which makes growing up just that bit harder but of course, still inevitable. I enjoyed every moment even when it made me sad, depressed or angry. I loved it for the way it remained with me long after I had finished and moved on to the next book on my TBR. I was haunted by it and I feel like I still am. Unforgettable is not a word I throw around lightly but it applies here. And I think part of what makes it that way is how easily the unexplainable could wipe away or completely change or challenge the existence we enjoy as we know it, as it has in this book. The reactions of the characters and the slow burning uncertainty of the end of the world is captured so brilliantly and realistically that it rings true to me. It makes me think of that T.S. Eliot poem ‘The Hollow Men’:

This is the way the world ends/not with a bang but with a whimper.
( )
  crashmyparty | Jun 20, 2015 |
I was reluctant to read this book because I thought it was going to be a bit sci fi with the subject matter. It was not. The earth is slowing down and days are becoming longer and longer. But the novel is so much more. It is about a twelve-year-old girl coming-of-age during this time. I would have liked to see the children have a more fearful reaction to the slowing as I think most children would. But I liked Julia's character and how the author dealt with the issues of friendship, first love, parental issues and so forth, as well as dealing with the slowing of time. I enjoyed the author's writing style as well. People would most definitely have to go on with their lives is such an event were to occur and this story shows that happening. I just wish a bit more panic would have been written into the book, as I think that would be present in this situation. Overall, a good, different kind of read. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Jun 3, 2015 |
Hmmm... This book isn't terribly written. The author's voice is strong and the writing is lyrical. The plot and characterization is where it falls flat. The characters were all one-note stereotypes. Julia, the main character is so bland and unaffected it boggles the mind. Her only defining feature is her obsession with a neighbor boy that is never explained. Yet, when this boyfriend disappears from her life, she has about the same reaction as when the earth starts to die: namely, none whatsoever. Also, I felt the persecution of the "real-timers" was nonsensical and contrived. Besides which, nothing came of it. Nothing came of much of anything in this book. Characters and plot lines peter out all the time. This novel is nothing but loose ends. Overall, disappointing. ( )
  Juva | Apr 5, 2015 |
Utterly fascinating topic, though I truly hope the concept of the Earth's rotation lengthening remains science fiction rather than reality; I don't want to imagine living through the earth slowing it rotation and the reciprocal effects on animals, farming and human baseness. Very mildly disappointing outcome as the story doesn't have closure. I think this is fitting -- a joyful, roses and sunshine ending wouldn't be plausible. This is true young adult and other than the seriousness of Earth's future in science fiction terms, this is "safe" for preteens and teens. The three stars rating is only because I think that the author could have done more to develop the characters and set the scenes with more details. I wanted more. She made me hungry for more information. This may be selfish as she wrote primarily for a YA audience, keeping the scientific and psychological details to their teen mindset and not geer this toward my adult POV. ( )
  olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
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