Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

age of miraclesMy book club is discussing The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker this month, a sort of cross between an apocalyptic End of the World tale and a coming of age story.

“On an ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 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 that seems filled with danger and loss, Julia also must face surprising developments in herself, and in her personal world—divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by her friends, the pain and vulnerability of first love, a growing sense of isolation, and a surprising, rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking portrait of people finding ways to go on in an ever-evolving world.”

-description from goodreads.com

I could tell after only a few chapters that this was going to be one of those books that stays with me for a long time. The story had the ability to pull me in so deeply that when putting the book down each night, I had to sort of mentally separate the story from my actual life.

The way a strong dream can feel so real that when you awake you may later be unable to remember what was from the dream and what really happened, this story seemed so plausible sometimes that it was unsettling. I found myself having a new appreciation for our 24 hour days and thinking about how small changes in our world can have such a vast impact on our lives.

The overall concept of this story is both fantastical and disturbingly plausible – the way any good dystopian kind of story should be. I think the author did a great job of fleshing out her story, providing a main character that was both realistic and likeable with plenty of side stories that had less to do with the world potentially ending and more to do with coming of age.

This is not a happy story, but it is also not a depressing story. It is engaging and fantastical and realistic while also being surreal. I loved reading Walker’s interpretation of how life on Earth would be affected by the Slowing – all the immediate effects and then the longer term changes. She really looks at the world from all angles – from how people adjust to the changing day lengths, to the animals, plants, climate and more. I found a lot of her ideas to be very plausible. Whether they are scientifically realistic or not I can’t say, but as a reader the whole story really worked for me.

Question: If the rotation of the Earth changed, causing the hours and minutes of each day to be unpredictable – would you:

A. Live on “clock time” and ignore the rising and setting of the sun OR

B. Would you try to follow the Earth’s new rhythm and stay awake during the light hours and sleep during the dark ones?

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