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 behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.
Overall: I’m preparing for the end of the world. And really glad that I won’t be an 11-year-old girl when it happens.
The entire premise of this book is terrifying. Basically, the world begins to spin slower, making the days and nights erratic. What I found interesting and rather brilliant about this book was where it put its focus. Much like Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Age of Miracles puts its emphasis on the characters rather than the situation. The focus remains on how this event affects the average person, and humans try to retain some semblance of their old life and routine despite the fact that everything has changed.
Walker manages to capture the many layers of human nature. How do we react when the world literally stops spinning? Or at least slows down. Well, we freak for a little bit and then try to create some semblance of normal. This is what the characters of this book try to do with varying results.
The book is written from the point of view of 11-year-old Julia, a rather awkward girl who finds herself having to grow up rather quickly. Not only does she have to deal with the differences due to the slowing of the world, but also has to quickly learn how to make sense of the adult world. She begins to see her parents in a different light when she realizes that her parents don’t have everything figured out like they seemed to before. It’s a realization that is relatable and familiar as many of us have been through this same issue.
Julia is forced to go through being an 11-year-old girl while the world is potentially ending. As many know, just being 11 is hard enough, so adding an apocalypse just seems so unfair, and this why we become attached. I found it easy to relate to Julia. Her confusion about her parents and herself felt familiar. Walker does such a great job of portraying what growing up is like, and being able to make Julia’s experience seem so similar to our own despite the impending apocalypse is admirable. The slowing of the Earth acts as a catalyst for Julia’s growth more than anything else, allowing the focus to remain on Julia and the people around her. It allows Walker to explore not just how this event would affect the Earth, but how it would affect our relationships, society, and way of life.
Walker as written something bigger than an apocalypse novel. She has created a story of love, fortitude, and survival. A story of mistakes, prejudice, and fear. It’s an examination of what it is to be human and it is both wonderful and terrifying.