The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Karen Thompson Walker
Simon and Schuster
This book, quite frankly, is amazing.
Reviews have compared it to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, but it's more horrifying than that in a way because The Age of Miracles deals with the kind of catastrophe that we don't even think to be scared of.
From the blurb
"On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life--the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behaviour of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloguing his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues."
It's hard first of all to classify this book. It is at the same time adult and young adult, science fiction and realism, a coming of age story and a fable of a not-far-away apocalypse. At the same time, it's not a complicated story. The changes of the world are presented in a logical succession, with chapters or new scenes beginning with an explanation of what has changed since we last heard. Contrasted against this are the scenes of Julia's life.
Julia is a character who is easy to relate to. She's a normal girl, and not a Mary-Sue (an easily recognisable idealised version of the author inserted into the text in order for the author to write out their fantasies) who experiences friendship breakdowns, puberty blues, first love, and the astonishing revelation that her parents are not faultless beings. As she moves from innocence to experience (gosh, that phrase is a flashback to TEE English Literature), the world moves from normal to devastated, thus forever linking the traumas of growing up to a process of a loss of beauty and simplicity. At the same time, this is a cautionary book about our reliance on modern technology, and what would happen if we exhausted our natural resources.
A word to the wise- don't go questioning the science behind this book. It may or may not be accurate, but it's written in a way that is horrifyingly believable. At times I would emerge from a session reading this book still thinking that I was in it's world- that, yes, the world was slowing and I had to be careful.
To sum up?
Choosing favourite books is like choosing favourite vital organs- you need them all- but this is definitely going to make it into the top ten books of 2013 for me.
5 out of 5