June 2024
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Review: The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker

the age of miraclesWhen Julia is eleven years old, the rotation of the earth begins slowing down. Life changes in at first imperceptible ways as days and nights lengthen, but the potential consequences for the planet are huge. As a young girl just coming into her teenage years, though, Julia continues growing up. Plagued by loneliness, introverted Julia discovers things about those she loves, much of which she’d rather not know. She suffers through crushes, choosing what to wear, learning how to flirt, and deciding what she wants to do with her life, while all the while in the background the earth’s rotation starts to narrow the possibilities.

This is a short, intensely thoughtful book, a coming of age for Julia amidst speculation on what would actually happen if an apocalyptic event, no matter how minor at first, took place. When the books starts everything is normal. Julia has a best friend, a crush, piano lessons, soccer, school; over the course of the book, some of these erode away as the fabric of life changes drastically. People suffer from lack of daylight and some crops no longer grow. Animals, and then people, get sick. While there is time to plan, there is never enough time, and the future is consistently uncertain.

Growing up in this climate makes life even more difficult for Julia. She’s shy and has no idea how to act around potential friends or boyfriends. Everyone and everything is changing around her and she feels left behind and as though she’s standing still. It is so easy to feel for her and understand that transition period between girlhood and womanhood, when you’re not quite sure if all of the other girls know what they’re doing but you feel they must be ahead of you. The earth is slowing and, to an extent, so is Julia. This is what makes the book so introspective – we spend the entire time inside Julia’s head, only really understanding her perspective on things and finding what changes her.

I liked this book; I liked the way it made me think about how much we take the world for granted (a lesson everyone needs sometimes) and what would happen if things changed so catastrophically. I wouldn’t have minded if the book pushed this further, though, in the vein of a full science fiction novel. Some of the effects this might have on civilization are explored, but not in that much depth. I also liked Julia, although at times she was too internally focused even for me. Some of the interactions she has with other characters are just uncomfortable, which I suspect is the point. I’d also have liked the book to last longer; at the end we’re told she’s 23 but that skips out a decade of her life, so it feels as though the plot threads aren’t wrapped up properly.

Overall I felt I’d finished The Age of Miracles looking for more; this was a wonderful concept and I enjoyed it, but I really just wanted to spend more time learning about what might happen and where Julia’s life went after that year.

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