Welcome back, book enthusiasts! I hope you enjoyed reading this month’s book The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. I know I did. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I read it twice. Beat that.
I read it a second time because a) it’s an incredibly fast read and b) there’s a lot is described in this book that deserves more than just a one-time perusal.
The story centers on the coming of age of a young protagonist named Julia. Throughout the novel she deals with family concerns, school angst, a crush on a boy, and fights with her best friend. Standard young adult fare. Except she does this while the rotation of the earth is inexplicably slowing. So while she deals with bullying at the bus stop, the days are getting longer and longer. Crops die. Wildlife perishes. The magnetic field of the earth is ripped apart, allowing solar storms and radiation to pour into the atmosphere. The world is slowly burning to death.
A little background. In 2011, a massive earthquake rocked the world near Japan. The event was so cataclysmic, it actually changed the rotation of the earth slightly, causing the day to end a fraction of a second earlier than usual. When the author heard that, this book began to take shape. I personally think that the inspiration for the story is terrifying, and in many ways overshadows the fictitious world she creates.
Separately, the two stories that are combined in The Age of Miracles – the coming of age story and the apocalyptic ending – are a little weak. The character of Julia is not developed much past her tiny window of life in which we see her, and the end of the world aspect could have–and should have–been given a greater role in the book. However, Walker has a great descriptive manner when writing about the end of the world. And as a teenager, everything seems big and final and dramatic in its ending. In The Age of Miracles, these endings are a perfect metaphor for the transition from adolescence to adulthood. From the last grape you eat to the last time you see the first boy you loved, the final events in the life of Julia (no, not this life of Julia) are just that: incredibly and painfully final.
That is what struck me the most about this book. Life can go on as normal during such a world-altering event, but only for so long. Eventually the normal and routine become things of the past, and all that’s left are your final experiences. And yet while that seems horribly depressing, it’s not. This book is called The Age of Miracles for a reason. The end holds just as much of a miraculous component as the beginning. The last time you do something is equally as special as the first time.
I’ve been recommending this book like crazy to people near and far, and hope that everyone takes the (very little) time to read it. If you have any, leave your comments below.
Up next, I’ll review Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press the first week in October. Thanks for reading along if you did, and I look forward to your comments on this great book!