My Thoughts on Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles
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But I knew that Michaela had stopped doing her homework earlier that year. She was developing a different set of skills. There was a lot to learn about the care of hair and skin. There was a proper way to hold a cigarette. A girl wasn't born knowing how to give a hand job. I let her see my homework whenever she asked.
So, I am going to make this post a little personal for a minute, and say that I have been working on an apocalyptic novel not so unlike (although also very different from) this one for the past two years. One of the reasons that I wanted to write the story that I am working on is that there aren't enough apocalyptic novels that address just how similar things might be afterwards, in my opinion anyway. Karen Walker Thompson does a great job of that with her debut novel, The Age of Miracles, in which, even after the world begins slowing on its axis and the changes in gravity start making people sick, after birds start falling from the sky and friends and neighbors disappear to strange desert colonies, the sixth grade is still the sixth grade.
As the quote above shows, the concerns remain the same for the young narrator of the story, Julia. She worries that she will lose her best friend, she develops her first crush on a boy, she doesn't particularly like soccer practice, and her parents continue to baffle her. The story is narrated by a future Julia, although it is important that we don't know how far in the future until we reach the end of the story. Some of older Julia's reflections on the time in her life when "the slowing" began, are nostalgic for anyone who has been a teenager. There are also parts of the book that are super sad (for example Sylvia's finches for those of you that have read it), and also tender. Finally, the concept of "the slowing" is not overly developed, but is believable. The book isn't science fiction -- as many reviews have said, it is a coming of age story -- but it can hold its own when it comes to creating a changing universe.
What I found didn't work for me in the book, was the maturity of the narration. In fact, it might just have been the maturity of the characters in general. Julia is eleven years old at the beginning of the book, and something about her feels much older. Now, I recognize that the voice of the narrative is older, but something about the voice made her seem like it would have been much more appropriate if she was in eighth or ninth grade. But, I suppose that is small. In the end, even though I wasn't 100% satisfied, I would recommend The Age of Miracles for a fresh perspective on an increasingly familiar genre.
See quite a few other perspectives on the book by visiting the TLC Tour page.
Title: The Age of MiraclesAuthor: Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction, Apocalyptic Fiction
Where I got it: From the publisher through TLC Book Tours