Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Age of Miracles

I read Karen Thompson Walker's book, The Age of Miracles, while I was away on vacation last week. Once I started reading, it was really hard to stop. I love apocalyptic books, and this one is so grounded in reality - sixth grade reality - that it makes the horror of what is happening much more compelling. 

Julia is eleven, an age that is puts her between two worlds - childhood and adolescence. She worries about her friendships, longs after Seth, a boy at the bustop, and is tortured by a bully. These very real fears and longings are played against the backdrop of a world that has started to unwind. For some reason, Earth's rotation begins to slow down, so that nights gain thirty minutes and days last for forty hours. 

There are many reactions: some people are convinced that it is the end of the world and gather in religious sects, such as Julia's best friend, Hanna. Others insist on following "clock time" - getting up in the dark, sticking to a 24 hour schedule. Another sect wants to follow new time - staying in during the dark, waking at the strange new dawn. The two groups clash, as humans always seem to do, and one is driven off to the desert to live their new schedule.

The birds begin to die. Crops fail. The sun burns with a new intensity.

And Julia is changed by all of this, but her changing relationships matter more. Her parents begin to grow distant to each other. Hanna moves away with her family. And her proximity to Seth becomes more intense - in many different ways.
Image courtesy of Housatonic Museum of Art

Walker writes with a slow style that mirrors the new revolutions of the planet. Don't think that means that there is any lack of excitement, however. I was sucked in from the start, wanting to find out more about Seth and what would happen to Julia. 

She also continually surprised me, with new concepts and ways of describing unimaginable events. For example:

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 the 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.

And, on the micro scale of the revolutions within Julia's emotions, Walker is just as powerful:

"It's not fair to your mom," he aid. "I hate things that aren't fair."
I nodded. "Me, too."
We said nothing else, but the secret buzzed between us. It felt good to have told. It felt good to be known by this boy. 

I loved the story on both levels: the story of a young girl, and the sci fi nature of the background. I highly recommend this book.


Johanna Garth said...

I just read this book too and finished it in a couple of days. Loved all the macro and micro scale elements too.

Dwight Okita said...

This is one of my favorite new books. It's a model soft sci fi book. I gave it a rave on Goodreads and about 40 people "liked" my review. In my review I mentioned my novel Prospect is also trippy soft sci fi!

Alison DeLuca said...

Isn't it fantastic? Yours is amazing too, Dwight! (The Prospect of my Arrival, readers.)