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The Age of Miracles

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2012)
“It’s never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass—it’s the ones you don’t expect at all,” says Julia, in this spellbinding novel of catastrophe and survival by a superb new writer. Luminous, suspenseful, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles tells the haunting and beautiful story of Julia and her family as they struggle to live in a time of extraordinary change.
On an ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia awakens 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 paints a breathtaking portrait of people finding ways to go on in an ever-evolving world.

294 pages, Paperback

First published June 21, 2012

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Karen Thompson Walker

5 books1,757 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,363 reviews
Profile Image for Dwight Okita.
Author 7 books47 followers
March 18, 2023
I loved this book. I read it in one 24 hour period. Great example of soft sci-fi/fabulist fiction. It's like a cross between Alice Sebold's book The Lovely Bones and Lars Van Trier's film Melancholia. In some ways, I also thought about Diary of Anne Frank. A young girl faces a possible apocalypse in MIRACLES. It's YA dystopia but more charming and whimsical than, say, The Hunger Games. Ultimately it is a book that celebrates life with one hand, as it erases life with the other.

The language of the book is poetic and intoxicating. The consequences of the slowing earth are imagined in rich and provocative detail. I'm a very picky reader and many unfinished books lie around my house, but this one satisfied me. (I was less taken with the second book, The Dreamers. The review is also on Goodreads.) The YA heroine in Miracles was someone I could relate to and root for, the plot had just enough twists, the concept hooked me and was well executed.

I did think the author cheated just a bit here and there. It's a brilliant cheat. There are times the hero Julia says things like: "That was the last time I EVER ate strawberries." Or I NEVER saw so and so again. That kind of language hints that she might die at the end, or that the world ends in the last chapter. In fact, the character and the world still go on by the novel's end, albeit precariously. I think the more honest phrasing would have been: "That was the last time I ate strawberries this spring." Because as long as the earth spins and she is alive, she can't truly know that she will NEVER eat strawberries again. Even if strawberries become extinct, technically she can not know that by some twist of fate she won't eat them again.

It's a small thing and I think the author was very clever to use this sleight of hand. It made me think that the girl or the world were going away. It's a book I will think of for some time. As a writer myself of speculative, trippy fiction -- I am in the process of analyzing the many things this book did right!

* Thanks to the many goodreads folks who have liked this review. I love speculative fiction like this. My novel, THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL, was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. THE HOPE STORE got me named an "Author to Watch" by Best Indie Book Awards. My new book for 2023 is a memoir...THE INVENTION OF FIREFLIES: A Memoir of the Magical & the Monstrous. www.DwightOkita.com
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,945 reviews291k followers
September 5, 2016

This is yet another rating I really struggled with because, though I can't say I really enjoyed it, the novel is beautifully written in a very evocative way that makes you want to write down a quote every few pages. But it comes back to that whole writing vs story matter that has stopped me from giving many prettily-worded books a high rating.

The dystopian aspect of The Age of Miracles creeps in slowly and in a mostly subtle and non-threatening manner. Basically, the normal 24 hour day begins to slowly lengthen, first by minutes, then later by hours. Scientists from around the world appear on TV discussing this strange occurrence - how could this have happened? Why did no one see it coming? Eventually, more subtle and weird changes begin to happen to do with the Earth's gravity: birds dropping to the ground, unable to fly; cars colliding in accidents that would have easily been avoided before.

This is one of those slow-moving stories, the major plot line is that these changes take place but the subplots that should be what happens when it does, how this affects people's lives... they are small and seem rather undramatic, particularly for this genre that needs a little oppression, some serious danger, a very real threat. I read this novel feeling like no one was in any real peril and that the most tragic event was that Julia - the eleven year old narrator - grew apart from her best friend.

I guess that the intention of the author was to show the subtle effects to lives when people experience fear and uncertainty. Walker wanted to show how relationships break down and people change, and she did do that. But there's no real sense of catastrophe here, no panic, the fear they feel is more a touch of nerves over what might happen than it is a spine-chilling terror. It's too gentle, too subdued, too focused on what I didn't care about.

The description would have you think that this is a science fiction kind of tale where the Earth's rotation starts going crazy... hardly, it's the day-to-day problems of a suburban Californian family and how badly they deal with their routine being disturbed. Also, the ending is highly unsatisfying and read like the bullshitting of someone who doesn't have the answers to the questions they've opened up. Unless your idea of a good reading experience depends totally on the language/writing, I recommend giving this one a miss and maybe just reading the pretty quotes on the book page.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,290 reviews120k followers
October 1, 2020
Growing from pre to teen is tough enough, but when the entire planet slows down, it makes the transition a whole lot tougher. Julia is a charming every-girl living an average life in southern California. Her coming of age joins with a slow-apocalypse vision in a merging of genres.

The ARE volume I read includes no explanation for why the earth’s rotation suddenly begins slowing. [Unless of course, I am an older, blinder coot that I realized, and just missed it] I have read that the cause was supposed to have been a large earthquake, but it is possible that that was edited out.

Karen Thompson Walker - image from Paper Blog

In any case we have parallel story lines here. One is Julia coming of age and other is the earth maybe coming to its end. The two interact as we would expect they might. In any coming of age, particular of an American middle-class girl, there are a host of items one would expect, a checklist, of concerns that might be in any bildungsroman. Social anxiety, feeling like an outsider, attraction to a boy, problems with friends, having to cope with obnoxious peers, concern about physical development, concern about physical appearance, including exposure, beginning to see flaws in parents, beginning to appreciate complexities of the world. Check, check, check, check, and so on. There is not much in the arc of Julia’s experience of growing that stands out here. It is clearly the external events that make this more than yet another tale of growing up.

The event is called “the slowing.” Unfortunately it requires a large act of faith to accept the premise, but let’s make the assumption, just for now. If the earth were to begin spinning at a reduced rate how might this manifest? It is here that the strength of the story lies. The details Walker offers are fascinating, and include many symptoms that might not feel all that newsworthy. I would not be surprised if Walker had scoured the news for oddities to include here. Changes in the earth’s electromagnetic field are significant, exposure to prolonged periods of both light and dark have catastrophic effects on plant life. Birds plunge from the sky for no obvious reason, gravity itself increases. I liked how she projected a likely separation of people into two camps, those who stayed with life based on a 24 hour clock, regardless of light and dark, clock-timers, and another group that attempted to adjust themselves to the light and dark cycles that the slowing earth offered, real-timers. It was clear that a lot of thought went into the cascading reactions of earth’s biomes and its people to the change. Most of it made sense. Some did not.

Even were the earth to slow down, one would expect the rate of slowing to be fairly constant. In Walker’s vision the rate of change varies from day to day, and even the direction of the change fluctuates. I wonder if this is actually possible for an earth-sized planet. I would be interested to know what her source was for this possibility. I came across one particular item that was bothersome beyond that:
I wanted to think that somewhere on the other end of time, a hundred light years from then, someone else, some distant future creature might be looking back at a preserved image of me and my father at that very moment in my bedroom.
Really, did the author never hear of Star Wars, in which Han Solo incorrectly uses the word “parsecs“ as a measure of time when it is really a measure of distance? Ditto here. It is conceivable that Julia might mistake light years for a measure of time, but one must wonder if it is the author who got this one wrong. This would be surprising as it is clear Walker did a lot of research for this book. Another was when everyone was terrified by an eclipse. Even in a slowed down earth, one would expect that science would still be able to predict such events and offer public notice. This sort of thing is jarring and challenges one’s ability to suspend disbelief.

The book reads very fast. Julia is an attractive narrator, someone who readers can root for. Walker keeps the plot moving forward and gives us plenty of information about what is happening in the world without seeming to force anything. She offers plenty of imagery to enhance the characters’ experience and tweak our concerns about this world. We really do expect that the changes in the larger world will reflect, or at least enhance, the changes in our narrator. Walker does not disappoint here. An example:
Maybe it had begun to happen before the slowing, but it was only afterward that I realized it: my friendships were disintegrating. Everything was coming apart. It was a rough crossing, the one from childhood to the next life. As with any other harsh journey, not everything survived.
And another:
Some things that happen during youth, you carry with you into later life, and certain experts were already predicting an approaching tidal wave of cancers
So why did I not love this book?

First of all, even with all the apocalyptic material it contains, and despite the wishes of Random House, (and other publishers who have forked out millions, yes, millions for this book) this is a YA book. It is actively annoying to be reading a book that clearly is meant for a YA reader and have the publisher’s marketing department pretending it is intended for readers who are way post adolescence, praying for that crossover hit. It would not shock me at all if RH convinced the author to have her name printed as K.T. Walker in hopes of giving her work a subliminal boost in growing Potter-like legs. Really, label it properly. Secondly, the growing up aspect of this novel seemed garden variety to me. Been there, read that. I enjoyed reading The Age of Miracles (with the world falling apart, one presumes that the miracles here have to do with the characters and not the things happening in the world, or they would have had to call the book The Age of Horrors) and would happily recommend this book to kids from 10 to 17. But older than that, not so much.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram and FB pages

Her Twitter account does not appear to have been used since 2015

Her second novel, The Dreamers, was released in 2019
Profile Image for Jared.
389 reviews10 followers
December 4, 2013
Starts off well but quickly fizzles into a pretty benign coming of age story. Also, while I'm not necessarily a stickler for hard science in my sci fi, it seemed like the author was too lazy to research the actual effects of the Earth slowing and just ignores the basic laws of the physical sciences. So much so that it really did take away from the story.
The whole apocalypse angle was incidental and unnecessary to the plot. A bland story all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews714 followers
February 29, 2020
First great five star read this year! I have seen this book gets mixed reviews, but I just loved it. I really like the style of this writer. She writes about catastrophies happening in the world (re. also her other book The Dreamers) but the contrast is she does it in a very quiet and even almost poetic way. Which made it a great read for me. This book is about a scary change happening worldwide: the rotation of the earth is changing. 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. So it changes life for everyone and nobody knows what comes next and if earth is going to survive. Within this framework we witness this happening through the eyes of teenager Julia and her family. Her mother, father and grandfather are severely affected which brings this family into turbulence and into weird happenings. Meanwhile, this is a very beautiful coming of age story. Loved it.
So, these are my thoughts. Please share yours if you read this. More to follow as usual. And... recommended!

We stopped at a gas station on the way and discovered a long line of cars waiting for the pumps. Dozens of minivans and SUVs formed a chain that overflowed the parking log and wrapped around the street corner. "Jesus, "said my mother. "This line looks like something out of a war zone. " A woman in a pink floral print dress hurried between the cars, slipping orange flyers beneath windshield wiper blades as passengers looked away. 'The end is now! Repent and save yourself!' I avoided her eyes as she passed, so frantic and so sure, but she sought out mine and paused at my window to shout through the glass: "And the Lord God said, 'On that day, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.' My mother flicked the lock on the doors. "Is that from the Bible", I asked. "I can't remember", my mother said.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,325 reviews7,104 followers
January 3, 2014
Really enjoyed this book. The characters were believable and yes the slowing of the earth was believable too. One can only imagine the horrors of this happening for real, but the thing is, you CAN see the possibility of this scenario. You really get to feel how scary it would be. Well written, would definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
798 reviews1,805 followers
February 26, 2019

Really disappointed and glad I read her sophomore novel first! While I was intrigued with the premise and kept reading to see where it was going..... it never really went anywhere.

A very melancholy story that failed to ever capture my full attention. Just waiting, waiting, waiting, and for what? Not much of an ending IMO.

Something has happened to make the Earth slow.... Just like the pace of this book and it never picked up. In the end, this was a huge miss.

Profile Image for JanB .
1,126 reviews2,273 followers
June 26, 2019
I loved The Dreamers so decided to read the author’s backlist book. While the apocalyptic theme is similar, the execution is very different. The earth’s rotation has slowed, and the lengthening days and nights affects everything from gravity, crops, tides, and animals, to human behavior. Julia, a 12 year old, is the narrator and she must deal with a very altered, uncertain world and future while also navigating the challenges of life as a tween. I don’t typically enjoy child narrators but Julia stole my heart and I was very taken with her.

The author writes beautifully with a quiet thoughtful prose that appeals to me. It probably won’t satisfy a fan who reads only apocalyptic and sci-fi, but I’d recommend it for those who enjoy literary fiction coming of age novels that offers something just a little different.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews658 followers
May 19, 2014
I think I am exactly the wrong audience for this book. I read a lot of science fiction, see, and this book is very much trying to do science fiction without the science fiction. And so my inclination is to want the book to explore at least some of the science behind what's going on, and the steadfast half-refusal to do so is irritating.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Author 3 books40 followers
February 3, 2013
Most books I read a book serve as a form of escapism, a little welcome holiday from life.
But some books get inside your head, altering how you see your own life, even as you are reading them. Changing your perspective on the real world.
The Age of Miracles is one of those books. The Da Vinci COde had a little of the same effect - I never looked at his paintings in the same way again. But the Age of Miracles did it better. Without spoiling anything, I can say that the book begins with the mass-realisation that the earth's spin is slowing down. The phenomenon is termed The Slowing. I read the book in half a week, and found myself nervously watching the skies more than once over those few days. Was it me, or was the sunsetting very late? Did the moon look particularly orange and large, or did it always look like that at this time of year? Hmmmm.......
The premise behind the book is fantastic. A quarter of the way through, I was sure this would be a 5-star rating (only my second for a novel on Goodreads). The writing is great. The main character, being an 11-year-old girl, is the perfect heroine, insofar as the writer can never get TOO scientific, which suits the reader. There is enough science here to deal with, but it never gets annoyingly-complicated.
But I had one major gripe with the book. A third of the way through, I was waiting for the main plot to start. Two-thirds of the way through, I was still waiting. And at the end, it became apparent that there was to be no main story-line, apart from The Slowing, and how it effected everyone and everything over the course of a year. More of a memoir, than a novel.
Now, perhaps this was what the author intended. Maybe she thought that The Slowing was story enough in itself. And maybe she was right. I still was excited to get back to the book every night, and I enjoyed almost every part of it.
But there was the odd time where I felt a little patronised (for example, the effect on the tides was repeatedly explained, as if the reader mightn't have grasped it the first time) and most chapters began with a discription of some new effect The Slowing was having, all of which was interesting, but became a little repetitive. Had there been another narrative, a main storyline running through the book, I think The Miracle of Ages would have been a 5 star rating.
But even as it is, I would highly recommend it, especially to anyone with an interest in science or the environment. A great read.
Profile Image for Emily Crowe.
355 reviews130 followers
July 7, 2012
This is the story of how we begin to remember. Well, no, not really. But that particular Paul Simon lyric has been swirling in my head this morning and I was just itching to use it. This is actually the story of the day the earth stood still, uhh, slowed down. And the days after that, and the days after that. Nobody knows why the earth's rotation has slowed, but Julia is eleven the day this discovery is announced on the news, with varying degrees of panic.

At first the effect is subtle, resulting in a few extra minutes each day, but before long there is a worldwide dilemma on how to handle the growing length of days--and there is much debate whether to follow the 24-hour clock time of old, or to establish "real time" that coincides with each new solar day. "Clock timers" declare dominion over the "real timers" and marginalize them in society in much the same way all minority groups have been marginalized through the ages.

The first indication that the world might be headed for end times is the demise of the birds. The new gravity from the slowed rotation has crippled their ability to fly and navigate. Next, the magnetic field changes and weather becomes unpredictable. Crops wither under 24+ straight hours of sun followed by an equal period of darkness. Newly erected greenhouses powered by sunlamps deplete the energy grids. Clearly it's only a matter of time before all food sources will disappear.

In the meantime, Julia is just trying to make sense of what is happening in her personal life amidst these larger world turmoils. Her best friend's family moves away to join a desert Mormon collective in Utah. Her unrequited crush finally approaches her. Her mother succumbs to gravitational sickness. Her father may or may not be having an affair with a "real timer." In other words, a typical adolescence.

In other, other words, this is a coming-of-age, pre-apocalyptic novel.

I think I just coined the word "pre-apocalyptic." If I didn't, please don't disabuse me of the notion just yet.

The book is, overall...pretty good. I liked it. I didn't rock my world; there were no profound insights into the human experience; and at no point was the prose so spectacular that I wanted to read something a second time in order to savor it. It's simply a quick and easy read with a moderately interesting premise, but I'm a little perplexed about the pre-publicity buzz surrounding this book. The manuscript created a bidding war in the publishing world and word on the street is that the author walked away with a cool million from her US publisher and another $500k each from her Canadian and UK ones. Since this is a debut novel and not a particularly brilliant one I that, I just have to wonder if the publishing world's head is up its collective arse. You can't read a major newspaper these days without coming across an article touting the demise of the book world as we know it. And it's moves likes this, which are questionable at best and asinine at worse, that makes me doubt both publishing's business acumen and sense of value.

Which of course means that this book will probably be a raging bestseller and a major motion picture and I am just the lone voice in the wilderness who questions it all.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,698 followers
August 23, 2012
Look. I don't live in a vacuum. I know this is one of the most talked about books of the summer. Big displays in bookstores, frequent author appearances on my favorite public radio station cultural programming, reviews in my newspapers and journals of choice (that I didn't read - by the way - so I wouldn't spoil my experience). So hard I did try to consider this book on its own merits, without expectations. But I'm human. Given the hype, I'm gonna hope for a miracle.

Okay, maybe not a miracle. But something really extraordinary. Which this isn't. I'm so confused.

In case you DO live in a vacuum, The Age of Miracles, the debut of novelist Karen Thompson Walker, is set in suburban California right about now. The earth's rotation is inexplicably slowing, leading to hours of night, hours of bright day, throwing the universe out of temporal, circadian, climactic whack. Gravity is affected, birds cannot fly, fish cannot swim. Crops fail, cults flourish, communities collapse. But soccer practice goes on.

It's a brilliant premise and Thompson Walker does a superb job of presenting this disaster and its unfolding consequences without miring the book down in scientific explanations. I don't need to know why the slowing is happening; I'm ready to believe that our destruction of the planet can extend into our solar system. I am, therefore, disappointed by the author's heavy-handed foreshadowing. Frequent sentences with "It was the last time we..." or "We never...again..." steal the immediacy of the disaster.

Now that I've read several published reviews, let me dispel the widespread notion this story is told from the point of view of an 11-year old narrator, Julia. No. It isn't. It's told by 20-something Julia, looking back on the first year when the earth's rotation decelerated. Which changes everything this book is suggested to be - a coming of age story, a unique perspective of a young girl as the world begins a slow collapse around her. That misperception is not the author's fault. But by choosing to tell the story from many years' distance, Karen Thompson Walker does present the reader with an unreliable narrator. Are we expected to trust Julia's memory of how her limited community - her neighborhood, her school, her family - reacted to "the slowing"? Even more to the point, because this is a book far more concerned with human nature than its sci-fi premise would suggest, are we to trust older Julia's recounting of the relationships as she observed and participated in them? Had the author truly wanted us to live in Julia's moment, she would have let the little girl speak in her own voice, not via the sophisticated redaction presented by her adult self.

I can't quite figure out if this is meant to be Young Adult fiction. If 11-year old Julia were truly the narrator, I'd say a definitive "Yes". But Julia's voice and her perceptions don't ring true in so young a girl. Given her neighborhood, her home life - she's just not as sophisticated as her 20-something self tries to portray her. Yet, the emotional dimensions of this novel are too simplistic for adult literary fiction. It's all so muddley.

There is some extraordinary writing here.

Chapter One, Page 1

We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it.

We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin. We were distracted back then by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets of distant countries. Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that those hours, too, weren’t still pooling into days, each the same fixed length known to every human being.

But there were those who would later claim to have recognized the disaster before the rest of us did. These were the night workers, the graveyard shifters, the stockers of shelves, and the loaders of ships, the drivers of big- rig trucks, or else they were the bearers of different burdens: the sleepless and the troubled and the sick.

These people were accustomed to waiting out the night. Through bloodshot eyes, a few did detect a certain persistence of darkness on the mornings leading up to the news, but each mistook it for the private misperception of a lonely, rattled mind.

I mean, Holy Cow. But this promises a tension and a sense of dread that aren't sustained. There are too many parts that drone and drag, as minutes are added to the Earth's rotation and Julia's mother adds jars of peanut butter to the stash under the bed.

In the end, this is good entertainment. I can give it a pretty solid (how's that for oxymoronic waffling?) three stars, because I am taken by the dystopian rendering of a world grinding to a halt. But the characters feel dim and insubstantial to me, like memories of a summer fling.

Profile Image for Melki.
5,667 reviews2,323 followers
June 28, 2012
I'm always wishing for more hours in the day.
More time to spend with family.
Time to finish all those stupid craft projects I've started over the years.
An extra hour or two to set aside just for reading.

But the slowing of the earth's rotation to gain more time...that's not exactly what I had in mind.

In 2010, I watched a show called Aftermath: When the Earth Stops Spinning on the National Geographic channel. (You can watch it on YouTube)
It scared the hell out of me!
As the simulated planet's rotation slowed to a crawl, days and nights grew longer. The air became stagnant, difficult to breathe. The oceans shifted. There were earthquakes and tsunamis. Most plants and animals could not survive six months of dark, frigid night.

In this book, we meet Julia, a sixth grader who awakens one morning to discover that each day is now about an hour and a half longer than it used to be. And the world she once knew quickly starts crumbling around her.

People try to remain calm. Most choose to keep up some pretense of normality. They go to work; schools stay open --- yet they are all secretly stockpiling food and water, preparing for the day when...well, just preparing for the day.

April dissolved quickly into May, and May was the month when the earthquakes began. They were mild back then but frequent, an almost daily rumbling. That same month, we built a second greenhouse in the backyard, and we sunproofed our windows. My mother bought padlocks for all the doors in the house.
My father bought a gun.
Seven sunsets later, it was June.

Pretty freaky, huh?
There is such an feeling of dread about this book, it's downright unnerving. I kept looking up from the pages, surprised to see that everything was still normal. The birds were still singing. The clouds were moving quite briskly overhead.

The earth was still turning.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,694 reviews872 followers
April 23, 2015
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker's meandering, character and thought-driven novel about the end of the world, but I had no idea how bittersweetly she could spin this science fiction-adjacent tale of change, hope, young love, and death. I somehow assumed that this thoughtful exploration of the Earth's "slowing" would be a young-adult effort, but though protagonist and narrator Julia is a preteen, The Age of Miracles should not be confused for a simple young-adult story; don't be deceived as I was. Karen Thompson Walker proves herself more than adept at crafting a unique, easily-envisaged scenario in which for her characters to live or die here, and it is contemplatively engaging from the get-go. Though this is a debut author, there is clearly a lot of talent at play within this new author's fertile and expansive imagination — this is one novelist whom I will be sure to watch in the future.

I was struck by the author's writing within pages. Simple and spare, Walker and Julia are gifted with an easy but strong voice, alive with imagery. Walker has a gift for striking descriptions and a unique way with words, one easily lent to creating atmosphere and tension within the novel (from the ARC, page 8: "We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.") Her style fits this loosely apocalyptic story; the focus is not on the extreme events that happen as a result of the slowing (like "solar superstorms" or "gravity sickness"), nor in finding/explaining the cause for the change, but rather on the effects of the aforementioned on Julia and her family. As the world and the things taken for granted fluctuate and stretch, so too do the inner lives and previously unassailable facts of life for Julia, her father and mother.

Julia grows up, and into her role as narrator, quite fast in a world where "dark days" and "white nights" are the norm, and her character is neither stunted nor fully-dimensional. Hampered, perhaps, by the very short length of this novel (only 212 pages in ARC form), I never quite connected to Julia. I was curious about whether the cards would fall as I predicted, but I never fully invested in her as character. Like the particularly apt reference to the Gary Paulsen novel Hatchet and akin to its protagonist Brian, young Julia finds her way alone in an unfamiliar, and hostile world. I rooted for her in her suburban catastrophes; I just didn't love her. All the characters, from dad Joel to hippie Sylvia, feel sketched-out, rather than fully drawn and realized. Despite this, I was fully involved in the story unfolding throughout The Age of Miracles - the steady stream of new revelations, the twists and turns of the more mundane plotlines and above all, Thompson Walker's inimitable prose, kept my attention firmly affixed to the page.

Though quite short and not completely perfect, The Age of Miracles is a bittersweet and worthy addition to the science fiction/apocalyptic genre. Karen Thompson Walker's foray into writing is largely a success on many counts - it is original and compelling and distinctly written. It is, I hope, a pleasant harbinger of more to come from the debut novelist. I will definitely be tuning in as well as going forth and recommending this book for those seeking a slower-paced, more introspective take on the end of the world.

Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,896 followers
August 13, 2012
When John Donne wrote "Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus?" he wasn't thinking of the end of the world. But what if the earth began misbehaving so badly that it made the sun appear unruly indeed? What if the end of life as we know it came not with the Biblical Apocalypse or Armageddon, but instead with a slow unraveling of the diurnal cycle? And what if this happened when you were eleven-going-on-twelve, and just trying to navigate the 6th grade social scene?

Answer these questions and you have the story of Julia, a Southern California girl of the not-too-distant future. Julia narrates the story as an adult, looking back on that first year of "the slowing." It's a foregone conclusion that the world didn't end, because she's still alive many years later to tell the story. I was still curious enough to keep reading, though. I wanted to see what sorts of climatological, physiological, and sociological changes might arise if the earth began to spin ever more slowly. Those changes I will not reveal, because they comprise the most compelling aspects of the novel.

Karen Thompson Walker is a fine representational writer. There are no heart-stopping passages, but neither are there any boring or poorly-written ones. The narrowness of the focus robs the story of a certain measure of its potential. We often see very little of what's happening in the world outside Julia's girlish set of concerns. In that sense it feels more like a young adult novel, with plenty of cross-over potential into the adult market.

What Walker does well is show how various citizen groups and government agencies behave when we are faced with a crisis. The government will always tell us to just keep shopping and all will be well. Certain people will panic, hoard food, and otherwise behave erratically. Factions will form, speculation will abound. But most of us will just keep soldiering on, adapting to the changes as best we can and stifling our deepest fears. Like it or not, the earth is our only home, and we're stuck here until further notice.

3.4 stars
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,630 followers
November 13, 2014
"I want you to think how smart humans are. Think of everything humans ever invented. Rocket ships, computers, artificial hearts. We solve problems, you know? We always solve the big problems. We do." -- The Age of Miracles

For a book that is about the end of the world, this is a surprisingly quiet and slow-moving story. 11-year-old Julia wakes up one morning to learn that the earth's rotation has slowed, adding minutes and then hours to every day. The daylight stretches and stretches, and then the night goes on and on. The U.S. government orders everyone to follow 24-hour clock time, but some groups rebel and form their own communities, instead living according to the new hours of sunlight and darkness. People build shelters and greenhouses and hoard food. And relationships are strained and break apart.

This is a good premise for a science fiction story, but "Age of Miracles" is more focused on Julia's coming of age. She struggles with shyness and has a crush on a boy who seems to ignore her. She senses tension in her parents' marriage, and her best friend moves away. But Julia adapts to her new life, just as everyone must adapt to the changing hours.

For a debut novel, the writing is lovely. Some favorite passages:

"It's hard to believe that there was a time in this country -- not so long ago -- when thick almanacs were printed every year and listed, among other facts, the precise clock time of every single sunrise and every single sunset a year in advance. I think we lost something else when we lost that crisp rhythm, some general shared belief that we could count on certain things."

"I had grown into a worrier, a girl on constant guard for catastrophes large and small, for the disappointments I now sensed were hidden all around us right in plain sight."

"It was that time of life: Talents were rising to the surface, weaknesses were beginning to show through, we were finding out what kind of people we would be. Some would turn out beautiful, some funny, some shy. Some would be smart, others smarter. The chubby ones would likely always be chubby. The beloved, I sensed, would be beloved for life. And I worried that loneliness might work that way, too. Maybe loneliness was imprinted in my genes, lying dormant for years but now coming into full bloom."

As much as I enjoyed the book, the pace was so slow I think it might have been stronger if it had been edited down to the length of a short story. However, the pacing could have been deliberate. I remember being a teenager and feeling that it took forever to grow up, that the awkwardness of being a kid would never pass. What if Julia never gets to grow up? Those hours would feel endless.

My rating: 3.5 rounded up to 4
Profile Image for Blaine.
728 reviews579 followers
December 27, 2022
Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different—unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.

I'm of two minds about The Age of Miracles. The story was quite interesting and well told. The Slowing was a nice construct, making the book one part sci-fi and one part human drama as the characters are placed under stress by the changing world around them. But the book is sad. Relentlessly sad. Sad enough that I doubt I'll read it again. It's worth reading, but know what you're getting into: a story that will make you care about characters with a bleak future.
Profile Image for L A i N E Y (will be back).
394 reviews675 followers
March 17, 2020
I can see why lots of readers loved this - it’s a book that was written beautifully certainly. I guess it���s a little confusing to me because normally I love reading middle grade books so a book narrated by 11-year-old in this premise should have easily blown me away and while it was good, I didn’t feel that connected to any characters like I was expected.

And if I were to look at it from a dystopian genre, this wasn’t as thrilling/fun as it should have been... I know I know, it’s not supposed to be “that” type of dystopia but still. The book was so quiet, it almost put me to sleep a few times.

So 3 stars is the most sensible rating I can come up with...

Audiobook narrated by Emily Janice Card
Profile Image for Genia Lukin.
226 reviews175 followers
January 16, 2013
Moves from 1.5 to 2.5 stars.

Here's the thing. This book is not badly written, or bad. it's actually entertaining, in a haphazard sort of way. The style is well-crafted, there's a story, and so on. I would recommend the book for a brainless evening on the couch, or for a train ride, or just for someone who needs some light reading, any time. On the other hand, now that I've finished detailing the okay things that prevented a 1-star review, I shall move directly on.

For one, the well-crafted writing style is very, very crafted. I have began, in recent months, to slowly identify that particular story-craft and writing that is characteristic of a specific subset of authors today. I'm coming slowly to call it 'prestigious-MFA-graduate-style'. It was no surprise whatsoever for me to discover that Karen Walker, to, was a graduate of an MFA program. Somehow, there is a ... feel, a sense, to all these books written by all these graduates, as though they were opening up the same writing manuals, and diligently copying things out. The books have this same precious, visual feeling that hovers around the margins of saying something, and says little, but with a lot of exceptional metaphors.

For another, the book is simply shoddy sci-fi. She is obviously a graduate also of that school that looks at genre and says 'ewww!' loudly and very often, and loudest and oftenest of all when it is, in fact, writing genre. Because of that, the actual science-fiction they produce tends to fall bitterly short. Of course, the background and setting of the story are mere literary devices, because real writers, ahem, write books about people, but in actuality, in science-fiction, the settings are also literary devices, and the authors tend to do better with them.

I don't actually want to put words into the author's mouth when I have in fact no real clue what she may be thinking of sci-fi, but even if she loves it and admires it, her approach seems a touch naive, and very 'magical'. This thing just happened, poof!

The thing that most disappointed me in this book, though, were the characters. If the excuse of "real literature" is that it deals with "Real people" and characterization, this book has a problem. It is as though there are no real people in there at all. Julia herself is a stereotypical Boring Protagonist, to whom Things can Happen, around whom Plot can Revolve, and who can serve as a Likable, but Not Too Oppressive Narrator.

Around her is a whole gallery of people similarly cookie-cutter. As though the author took notes on a stack of flashcards at school, on which Typical Characters are sketched out, and then just went and applied them. Sure, those are all Types seen in real life, but most people in real life show at least a little bit more variety and complexity.

Here we have the Hippie Naturalists, who Grow Pot, Wear Beads, and make Weatgrass Juice. They say and do the right things for the Hippies. think the right things for Hippies, have all the correct attitudes. They never do a single thing that is surprising. We also have the Orthodox Jews, who (for some reason I don't actually know) Wear Black, have Bland Jewish Names (that went out of fashion years ago) and so forth. There is also the Grumpy Grandfather, who Believes in Conspiracies, Built a Boombshelter in the Sixties, Hoards Items, and Gets Away With Crap Because He's Old. The Science Teacher is an Optimist who Believes in Humans Solving Problems. The Mother is a Frustrated Ex-actress with Neuroses and Hatred for Thin People, and the kids include the Nerd (also with Conspiracy Theories, Computer Games and Heavy Backpack), the Goth, the Bad Kid on Ritalin, the Cool Guy with Long Bangs, and so on.

None of these people says or does a single thing out of character for the entire book. neither the parents, nor the teachers, nor the kids. nor even the protagonist herself. The story unfolds in a way that makes it possible to predict most of what happens in it, word for word. The beginning, the changes, the climax, the friendships... it's all cookie-cutter humans doing utterly cookie-cutter things. The protagonist until the bitter end remains a wet noodle, allowing her Desired Boyfriend to treat her like she doesn't exist half the time, and melting when he throws a bone (a whalebone) her way.

There are some genuinely touching moments in the book. The story has flow and dynamic and it is, thankfully, not too long. It has potential. Most of that potential goes terribly unfulfilled, but occasionally some interesting or at least authentic emotions filter through. Most of the time, though, it needs to be treated with extreme caution, and read with criticism suspended.
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,286 reviews1,256 followers
September 7, 2016
Another book that didn't live up to the hype. I found this so incredibly slow and boring. The plot sounds fantastic but the delivery of the story really had very little impact on me.

As the world moves off kilter and the days get longer, chaos descends. But the book didn't give me that sense of doom, darkness, fear, end of the world as we know it feelings.

I'm not going to dig much more out of my brain for this review. It's not worth it. Very disappointed in this one. This could of been really amazing, it just wasn't.
Profile Image for Francine.
126 reviews102 followers
July 5, 2012
The Age of Miracles was both beautiful and extremely frustrating. Beautiful because the writing was exquisite; Karen Thompson Walker writes simply but succinctly. She's very expressive and knows her way around the written word. While I don't think it was as beautifully written as The Art of Fielding, her writing was sophisticated, evocative and nuanced; without trying too hard, her words successfully evoked the images and emotions needed to further her narrative, something which many other writers try and fail to do. It almost reminded me of the beauty behind Colson Whitehead's Zone One, another book that I thought was both beautifully written but extremely frustrating.

So here are my reasons for loving this book:
- this was a true coming-of-age novel
- Thompson Walker did not shy away from themes of loneliness and ostracization that oftentimes comes with growing up
- the death of the human race mimicked the death of the earth, which was also an analogy for that tumultuous period between the end of childhood and the start of adulthood

It was a good story...if it had focused on the coming-of-age portion of the story, it probably would've been more successful. However, when taken in with the sci-fi aspects of the story (the earth's rotation is slowing down, causing longer days and longer nights, which leads to the eventual dying of the earth), it fails miserably.

The science is weak. I had to stop nearly a dozen times in disbelief. While Thompson Walker does not go into details, specifically so that she wouldn't have to deal with the science, what did end up in the book irked me to the point of distraction. I finally had to tell myself to really suspend disbelief...to the point where I found myself glossing over some of the "earth dying" parts.

It's a good thing -- a really good thing -- that I enjoyed Julia's story. The heartbreaking end of her friendship with Hanna evoked painful memories of lost friendships in grade school; similarly, her growing friendship and initial romance with Seth reminded me of early crushes and never quite knowing how to behave around boys. Her reaction to the decline of her parents' relationship was real, as were her feelings of not belonging anywhere or to anyone (I, too, remember lunchtimes in the library, in grade school!).

I think this book is worth reading, but I must warn other science geeks out there: don't concentrate on the science! Don't try to think too much or too deeply. Just enjoy the story for what it is: a story of a young girl getting ready to leave her childhood behind.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books326 followers
May 18, 2020
The earth’s rotation starts to slow, and humankind begins to panic and change in ways large and small. Eleven-year-old Julia watches her family, friends and neighbors transform over the course of weeks and months and the world turns into something she barely recognizes. A book that asks lots of “what if” questions.

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
Profile Image for Perry.
631 reviews502 followers
September 19, 2018
Oh. No. With the pacing of Chinese water torture, a tale told with as much credulity and cleverness as a Donald Trump tweet.
Profile Image for Amber.
215 reviews
April 21, 2017
This story haunts me. It is also very captivating to watch it unfold. I don't always go for YA, but this one was worth a re-read. It made me thankful to see the sun rise and set every night when it's supposed to. The book is told through the eyes of a 11-year-old Californian girl, Julia, as the earth's rotation starts to slow and the days and the nights get longer. I thought that the imagination and predictions about what might happen if the earth's rotation slowed was believable and this made the book scary. Along with this, Julia still has to deal with being a lonely almost teenager and all the social problems that go along with that. I am kind of a geek about the end of the world books and this one does not disappoint.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,201 reviews129 followers
April 2, 2020
This was very nearly a five-star read for me.

Ignore the category of "young adult" because despite the "coming of age" story, the backdrop of imminent environmental disaster delivers a whollop of a literary punch. It's a story that readers of all ages can appreciate, if not admire.

I'm a spoiler-free reviewer, and it's difficult to write about the poignancy of this novel without discussing plot points. However, this is a layered novel filled with real characters, potential real-world scenarios and an unknown future ripe with literary tension you can cut with a knife.

My only criticism, and it bothered me enough to lose a star, is that It is totally unbelievable that Julia's character was only a pre-teen when the story opens. Her teen angst, which is heartbreaking at times, seemed better suited to an older teen.

Not quite a post-apocolyptic book, and yet certainly there are shades of it, this book remains a strong reminder of the dark possibilities that surround the world we live in.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,341 reviews115 followers
October 28, 2020
Every now and then you take a chance on a book, an author you've never read before and you're blown away. I was blown away. What a concept! This is the story of 11 year old Julia and when time slowed down. What happens when the 24 hour clock we take for granted stretches. What happens when slowly the day increases to over 40 hours. What happens to society when some people are living on 24 hour clock time and others on real time? And all the while your growing up, ageing into a teenager, buying your first bra and falling in love.

I bonded with all the characters in this book, the plot was extremely gripping and I know this story will stay with me.

This book makes you look at each sunrise and sunset a little differently, makes time more important and makes you value what we take for granted.

Highly recommend this book, would be fab as a book club pick as there's so many talking points here.
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,975 followers
September 8, 2013
Thanks for the wonderful review that lead me to this, Ceridwen!

I chose to give myself the amazing luxury of taking most of a day to read this weekend. This was the perfect book to do it with. It probably took me all of four or five hours to read, and I surfaced only once or twice, very unwillingly.

The premise of this one is that one day in a time contemporary to our own, the earth’s rotation suddenly alters in a phenomenon that quickly becomes known as “the slowing.” The time periods we are accustomed to think of as days and nights start to lengthen- this happens slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, and then in an increasingly drastic fashion. Inside of a year, the world is experiencing sixty hour day “cycles”- two 24-hour days and two 24-hour nights in a row. The government reacts like any government you would expect to see written in a dystopia and insists on maintaining order through an increasingly irrelevant notion of “day” and “night”: insisting that it’s populace maintain the use of the 24-hour clock no matter what it looks like outside. The earth’s ecosystems and weather patterns quickly start experiencing changes- whole species die off or just lay down to die like the people on that planet in Firefly. People start developing mysterious illinesses that no one understands. End-times cults begin to flourish. Rebellious “colonies” of “real timers” pop up, people who decide to live to the rhythms of the sun no matter what the government says. And we’re off to the races.

It’s quite a clever premise that operates both in tune with and as a stand-in for much of mass society’s existential fears: global warming and the ozone layer, radiation and ecosystem decay, random catastrophic attacks from sources it is sometimes difficult to understand or locate. While the physics of it is likely to drive some people nuts, it made perfect sense to me that in this book, from this perspective, the source of the slowing would be unknown, and even more so, subject to the wildest speculation, from the somewhat plausible to the outrageously exploitative to the unfortunately not-plain wrong. Rumors swirl constantly, the public attitude switches from full-on panic to cautiousness to boredom and resumption of normal behavior. It becomes another option of something to blame everything on, a new language to use to settle petty scores and map out likes and dislikes. It’s a new Red Scare, a new witch hunt for terrorists, a new fill-in-your-particular-resonating blank. Walker uses the bones and framework in a sufficiently anonymous and distant and yet precise enough way for anyone with the slightest experience to recognize it, fill in the gaps, and move on.

And you should move on because the book is also a metaphor for the coming-of-age of the pre-teen narrator of the novel, an explicit metaphor for the seemingly inexplicable changes of middle school, both physical and mental: “.. 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. Our first flaws were emerging, but they were being corrected. Blurry vision could be fixed invisibly with the magic of contact lens. Crooked teeth were pulled straight with braces. Spotty skin could be chemically cleared. Some girls were turning beautiful.”

And lest anyone believe that Walker’s memories of middle school have become so faded as to become ridiculous (“the age of miracles”, middle school? Really? Lady, what utopian dreamworld are you living in?) it seems to me that Walker is using the word “miracle” in a context where you would most hope for a miracle- the hell-hole of hormones, insecurity, physical, emotional and mental changes that is middle school. Miracles are uncomfortable to be around, when they occur with that much regularity. They are hard to look away from or ignore, whether they are “commonplace” miracles or not. To be asked to take these miracles seriously by some adults and asked to ignore them by others, to want to be the person you were before these “miracles” took over your life and yet to lose touch with that person so you don’t know who they are anymore when you try to go back. That is an amazing and sadly outdated exploration of the word “miracle”.

This sort of miracle is really what the bulk of the book is about. It’s that choice that elevated this from the ranks of the many heroic fantasies that are rolling off the YA shelves these days, on the heels of discovery that it is not only teenage nerds who like superheroes and epics. In the hands of many another author, this idea becomes two hundred pages of atmospheric world-building and dystopian social-group dissecting, eventually leading our heroine through a world of underground anti-Establishment cults towards Enlightenment and eventual victory at the head of an army. It would have been impossible, I think, for some to resist such a ready-made Hunger Games like premise. But Walker shifted her camera’s focus from the wide-society struggle with epic battles to instead choose the route of a personal memoir that explores the ongoing life of a teenager going on with the surreal obligations of everyday life in the midst of the crisis, not as a naïf stand-in with wide eyes through which we can have the rules of life explained to us, but as a person whose life happens to have this catastrophe as its background. The memoir format allowed Walker to use an adult, detached, dispassionate voice when speaking about wider calamities and pass over exposition with “this has been well recorded elsewhere” and instead keep the focus firmly on the quotidian.

Thus the background services the main metaphor, rather than making the characters themselves a metaphor. This offers the perfect emotional foundation for a novel about the all-or-nothing, labored breathing, precarious, mercurial, absolute seriousness that adolescence can often feel laden with, offering a justification that rationalizes it sufficiently for the reader to participate in that emotional state of mind and become wrapped up in it. I think that this was a brilliant way of opening up a door and offering a way for the reader to really experience and remember what the cruelty and joy of that age felt like. I became involved for the larger story and then ended up staying because I was breathtakingly enraged by a schoolyard bully pulling up a girl’s shirt to reveal she wasn’t wearing a bra- an emotional reaction I am sure I would not have been able to have without Walker setting up an atmosphere in which extreme emotional choices felt both appropriate and natural.

This set up was combined with a spare and yet sharply observed style of writing that I felt struck a mostly appropriate note and lead me to trust Walker’s abilities and her statements, which meant I could let my guard down even more. At the start I was a bit wary of some of her more literary flourishes, which I felt were a bit overcooked at times, but they were balanced out by enough moments of excellent word choices and phrasing that I gradually relaxed. Even small things, like the choice, on the morning where everyone first becomes aware of the slowing to describe the mother’s keys as being left “in the teeth of the lock, where they would hang for the rest of the day,” as opposed to just being “left in the door,” helped add to the urgent atmosphere in which observations like this, instead of inspiring only a wise smile, at least can bring back a moment, if only a moment, of memory:

“On the first day of honors pre-algebra that year, Mrs. Pinsky had drawn a funnel chart on the whiteboard to illustrate that a sifting process had begun. “You’ve all been placed in the honors class for now,” she said, “But the number of kids who can understand the math is going to shrink every year from now on.” It was that time of life: Talents were rising to the surface, weaknesses were beginning to show through, we were finding out what kind of people we would be. Some would turn out beautiful, some funny, some shy. Some would be smart, others smarter. The chubby ones would likely always be chubby. The beloved, I sensed, would be beloved for life. And I worried that loneliness might work that way too. Maybe loneliness was imprinted in my genes, lying dormant for years but now coming into full bloom.”

The main character is pointedly, determinedly and absolutely the most standard-issue pre-teen sort of heroine that you could imagine. She is a smart, goody-two-shoes who has friends who suddenly decide that they are too good for her, thus making her an “outcast” who has to sit in the library at lunch, even though she’s sort of average in every way, and seems to understand the social system around her quite well. Her mother is pictured as inferior, her father the center of sense and she her father’s child as much as possible (has anyone else noticed this tendency for female heroines to have completely useless or inferior in some moral way mothers? They are almost always shown as following in the footsteps of their fathers.) She has a crush on a brooding boy with floppy hair who is quiet and cute and a sad home life, which appeals to her seriousness and precious maturity. Except, you know, then the apocalypse gradually creeps onto everyone.

What’s fascinating though, is that Walker chronicles the small changes that this makes in people’s lives, rather than the huge ruptures:
“It seemed to me that the slowing triggered certain other changes too, less visible at first but deeper. It disrupted certain subtler trajectories: the tracks 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 adolescences, the stinging a quite unremarkable stinging. There is such a thing as coincidence: the alignment of two or more seemingly related things that have 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 very much doubt it.”

On the one hand, there’s that appeal that blaming something exterior always has for someone going through a massive change, and on the other hand there is the reality that there are some certainties that people rely on to keep their lives going in a sensible way and without which, things may cease to operate, as the social order needs to rearrange to fulfill certain necessary quotas. The scene with the bully at the bus stop is a case in point. The narrator, our normal, average wallflower, becomes a wallflower no longer- as wallflowers are not a necessary element of the pecking order, only an outgrowth of it that is allowed to exist based on essentials being fulfilled. But as the slowing realigns the pecking order, pulling people out of it who disappear or move away, moving people up and down based on their gains or losses that might otherwise not have happened, the narrator is suddenly pulled into being picked on in a way that she has never had to deal with being just-popular-and-pretty-enough, through her connections to beautiful and popular girls, to be worth the risk of upsetting your place in a delicate ecosystem. This changes, however, as the school population’s choices regress to an even more survivalist level and the former “strong” try to continue to establish themselves as “strong”, needing targets to prove it, which becomes worth more than anything:

”What I understood so far about this life was that there were the bullies and the bullied, the hunters and the hunted, the strong and the stronger and the weak, and so far I’d never fallen into any group- I was one of the rest, a quiet girl with an average face, one in the harmless and unharmed crowd. But it seemed all at once that this balance has shifted. With so many kids missing from the buss top, all the hierarchies were changing. A mean thought passed through my mind: I didn’t belong in this position; it should have been one of the uglier girls, Diana or Teresa or Jill. Or Rachel. Where was Rachel? She was the neediest one among us.”

The great task of childhood and adolescence is to figure out how the world works, to make sense of things around you in a way that works for you. There are many disagreements, people choose many different paths, and anything, but anything, can be the thing that turns you from one path to another- there’s no reason why it should be, but it just is. It’s scary to think about that, interacting with children and also thinking back on your own life and thinking about the things that changed it for you. For me, it was the test that convinced me I was terrible at math, once and for all, the sarcastic attitude of certain family members at key moments, the phone number I got for a voice teacher at an audition I went to, the seat I chose in seventh grade English. Walker gets this feeling of it-all-could-have-been-different right, and invests it with all the import that it deserves.

I left this novel blinking my eyes, confused that when I emerged that it the day really had gone by and time hadn’t slowed. It was easy to disappear into it and hard to pull myself out again. It affected my mood for the rest of the day. Sure, many of its insights have been said before, some of them many times, but the way that Walker finds to make some of them fresh again and show it to us once more in this heady emotional atmosphere is well worth experiencing.

I have very few criticisms to make of this novel. The major thing I can think of that might be an issue for some readers is the very hazy physics of the novel- the catastrophes pile up and are more useful for metaphor and character development than they seem to be natural progressions of what might actually happen in this thought experiment. Walker gave slightly too much detail about the science in the beginning which did get me interested enough for me to kind of want her to continue it and be slightly disappointed when she didn’t, so I can see that. The other thing, and this is probably mostly a result of the fascinating secondary stories she created, there are other characters whose story I might have preferred to be foregrounded. The story of her father or the neighbor Sylvia, for instance, the perspective of the grandfather. The main character’s blandness, however pointed and purposeful, did make her fade next to these characters and did make her story somewhat predictable and occasionally monotonous, however relatable. But I can see how choosing those characters would have upset the fragile balance of how this all worked, and also locked us in to seeing this from a particular view that might have shifted this into a lesser, sensationalistic thing tied up with politics or Revolutionary Road, depending on the choice. The use of the narrator meant that she was almost a tabula rasa that reflected other, stronger personalities and gave us a strong chronicle of them from the outside, which allowed for better analysis and a broader scope. And I did feel that the narrator still had a satisfying inner life that rose above the expected a few times. Finally, there is the issue that this is aimed at a YA audience and can certainly read like it at times. That's where some of those tired insights can come in- she's writing for people who likely have never heard them before. There's also some overexplaining that I didn't think was necessary and would likely not have been there in a non-YA novel.

I have never been a particular fan of dystopia fiction- I don’t dislike it, it just isn’t what I reach for. However, if more authors made the choices that Walker did, I might change my mind very quickly.
Profile Image for Kate Z.
398 reviews
July 11, 2012
I was drawn to this book as a kind of "apocalyptic fiction" (when we come to the "end of the world" how will people adapt and carry on?) but it was more of a YA-type coming of age book.

The book is told from the point of view of 12 year old Julia who lives in San Diego when the earth's rotation slowly begins to slow down. Over the course of the novel a day on earth stretches from 24 hours to over one hundred which means there are 60 hours of day followed by 60 hours of darness or night. The magnetic and gravitational fields of the earth begins to change as well and both of these things affect crops and the entire eco-system. The tides change and entire communities along the coast are wiped out, whales beach themselves along miles of beaches and most families get their own greenhouses and special sodium solar lamps to grow their own food. For a while a kind of chaos follows as most of daily life is tied to the clock - when school begins and ends for example, soccer practice, work. As the days (and nights) start to expand it means that sometimes people have to do normal "daylight" activities during the dark - say, for example, soccer practice, which is held at 3 PM every day. Suddenly at 3 PM it's dark on some days. Additionally the rotation is constantly slowing so the day might be 25 and a half hours today but 27 hours tomorrow then 30 hours the next day. Scientists struggle (and fail) to predict the rate of the slowing and also to understand what caused it. Like SAD, the people on earth begin to be affected by these changes in the amount of daylight and some, like Julia's mom, are afflicted with something known as "the Syndrome" where they suffer a myriad of symptoms. Decisions must be made and most of the world decides to follow "clock time" where things stay on the same 24 hour clock that we've always known. Some people, however, decide to live in "real time" and they form communities or communes in the desert where they go and live by the light - staying awake for 20 and 30 hours of daylight and then sleeping for 20 or 30 hours of darkness.

All of this serves as the backdrop for "tween"ager Julia who must navigate friendships, a potential boyfriend, and her parents' relationship. Unfortunately for me, the real story of this novel was this and I just didn't care enough about Julia or her troubles to give this book a higher rating.
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,272 followers
April 23, 2013
Karen Thompson Walker reportedly received a million dollar advance for The Age of Miracles, her debut novel - an unimaginable sum for a first work, which naturally helped spark a considerable interest in it. The six figure advance and the the anticipation reminded me of waiting for Justin Cronin's The Passage - a novel dealing with the fate of the world after an outbreak of a vampire virus. Ultimately, the reactions were mixed - you can read my review here.

While Cronin aimed at reviving the - if you'll forgive the pun - somehow dead vampire theme, Walker gives her work an original and interesting premise. After some inexplicable event, the earth's rotation starts slowing down - days and nights begin to extend, at first almost unnoticeable, but soon affecting the lives of people in a very palpable way. As scorching days and cold nights extend crops begin to fail and people begin to suffer from symptoms which can't be diagnosed to any known disease. This set-up should prove for a more than fertile ground for a fascinating work of speculative fiction - but The Age of Miracles isn't so.

The focus falls on the 11 year old narrator, Julia, who goes through all the troubles of growing up, first crushes and dealing with her parents' troubled marriage, as the earth slows down into a pace which will stretch the days and nights into years, making it uninhabitable. Julia's narration never feels like an 11 year old would think or speak, making the narration seem distant and detached. Since the novel is narrated in the first person, the book feels cold and clinical - there's not much emotion, spontaneity and energy which one would expect from a child narrator. The whole novel seems to want to resemble one of Ray Bradbury's old sci-fi stories (Julie even remembers reading one) but doesn't succeed at it. The science/speculative fiction aspect is reduced to be merely a background for Julia's story, and all the interesting possibilities and ideas are never developed to their full potential. As other reviewers noted, the novel is surprisingly tame - there is preciously little violence and mayhem which would undoubtedly occur among societies as a result of the Slowing, forcing the reader to stretch his suspension of belief even further than necessary. With its PG-13-feel it seems to have been tailored towards younger readers, despite being marketed as a work for adults.

The ending is sudden and unsatisfying, and I was never able to get rid of the feeling that I read just a part of a larger whole - the book as it is feels incomplete. I would rate it around 2,5 stars - certainly not worth a million dollars, as science fiction fans are bound to walk away disappointed and those preferring coming of age stories will find little if anything which they had not read before in this slim and vapid tale. Worth borrowing from a library if it strikes your interest, but just barely.

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558 reviews
July 15, 2012
I started listening to this book on Audible, and I can highly recommend the audio - the narrator was very good. However, I got so into the story that when my husband came home from the store with a copy of the book, I quickly put the audio down and dug in to the print. I needed to find out how the story ended. When I started the book, I expected it to be another work of dystopian fiction. I expected a cross between Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeiffer and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I quickly learned that Miracles stands on its own. Walker's prose is poetically beautiful. There were times when I rewound the audio to hear a sentence again or reread a passage in the book because the language was hauntingly beautiful. I had those moments when I wished I had written some of the language. The story itself is also gripping. Julia, an 11 year old when the slowing begins, narrates the novel. I expected it to be a novel about what happens to the earth, specifically American society, after a catastrophe strikes, in this case a gradual slowing of the earth's rotation on its axis. But it's so much more than that. It's a novel that explores relationships - the relationships of family and of friends. It's a novel that causes one to pause and think a bit about the world.
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