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Book Review: The Age of Miracles

Posted by gck Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ageofmiraclesThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Genre: Literary Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: **** (out of 5)
Recommended for: People who enjoy beautiful language and mood creation, literary fiction fans
Received ARC copy through NetGalley.

Back-cover summary:
Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

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.

My review:
The Age of Miracles is a beautiful novel. My overall impression while reading was that this was a book form of the type of arthouse movie I love to watch. In my head, I was drawing connections to Melancholia. Though the characters are totally different, I saw similarities in the obvious fact that both are end-of-the-world stories, the excellent way they created an atmosphere of uncertainty, and the way they dealt with how different types of people respond to disaster. I loved the style of writing, the details in the description, and the pacing (though I wouldn’t have minded if it moved slightly faster).

I classify this both as literary fiction and young adult. The combination of these two genres appeals to me strongly because the young narrative voice removes a lot of the complication and density that can be challenging to the reader in many works of adult literary fiction. The pacing is restrained, slowly revealing symptom after symptom of the slowing and the effect on general society and the main character’s world. The juxtaposition of the uncertainty of adolescence against the uncertainty of an apocalyptic world adeptly shows how both the “small” personal challenges and the “large” world problems affect Julia’s life. Under the backdrop of world disaster, some problems become trivial, and some remain important.


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