"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles book cover
Image courtesy of
The Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker

The Summary
Julia lives an ordinary life in California.  She struggles with school, she deals with the loss of friends and the reception of new ones, she copes with the fragmenting of her family.  However, on October 6, life - and the world as Julia knows it - changes forever when it is announced that the world's rotation is slowing.

Known simply as the slowing, the event triggers environmental disasters, affects gravity, and extends the days and nights by hours and days.  Eventually, time becomes irrelevant - and life becomes a matter of remembering the past and being remembered.

The Good
Karen Thompson Walker has a masterful grasp of language.  The Age of Miracles is filled with beautiful descriptions and expressive, almost poetic, language that makes this novel especially enticing to read.  Even the characters are carefully detailed, carefully cataloged and defined by the narrator, giving them a clear and precise form in the novel.

The changes that occur in the world - that is, how the slowing affects the world and its inhabitants - are fascinating, too.  Walker puts a lot of thought, a lot of detail in describing and chronicling the changes that are sometimes too subtle to see, sometimes too enormous to ignore.

And it's interesting to see the effect of the slowing on people:  how they react to the change of days, the change of weather, the change of life as they know it.

The Bad
I'll be honest, I wasn't entirely satisfied with Julia's story.  Since she creates it from a future place and time, she has the benefit of hindsight and she employs that hindsight in every chapter.

I was frustrated by her frequent references to the future - that is, her constant comments that left a sense of foreboding without actually revealing more than a morsel of the truth - which left me waiting and wondering about the future (if a future existed), instead of simply enjoying the story as it was happening.

Too much of my mind ended up being dedicated to Julia's ambiguous future, rather than enjoying the story of her past.

The Ugly
When all is said and done, The Age of Miracles isn't a story about survival and human adaptation.  It isn't about rebuilding and reinventing; it's a tale of extinction.  It is Julia's memoir of the past:  what happened when the slowing began and how life altered dramatically when it happened.

This novel shows the end before the very end.