Sean Kottke's Reviews > The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
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Jul 18, 12

bookshelves: 2012, ya
Read in July, 2012

The title of this extraordinary novel denotes both the metaphorically earth-shaking transformations of puberty and the literally earth-shaking transformations of environmental collapse. Earth's rotation begins to slow, first subtly, then dramatically, lengthening days and nights at a rate too fast for the environment to smoothly adapt. "But no force on earth could slow the forward march of sixth grade," (166) writes Julia, whose coming of age experiences develop with the average fits and starts of American adolescents, despite the real possibility that there may soon not be a world to come of age into. The writing is consistently beautiful, and the portrayal of a planet spinning past the tipping point of catastrophe is vivid and frightening (especially so during this unprecedentedly scorching summer). The narration is filled with concise nuggets of psychological insight, such as this description of Julia's grandfather: "Of my grandfather's eighty-six years on the planet, he had lived two of them in Alaska, working in gold mines and, later, on various fishing boats. But those two years had expanded, sponge-like, in his memory, overtaking much of the rest. Whole decades had passed in California without producing a single worthy anecdote." (140) That's a description of the workings of the mind that wouldn't be out of place in Proust, I dare say. The novel has hundreds of evocative passages like this, making it one of the best written books I've had the pleasure of reading in years.
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