A Review of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles

What happened? I was waiting for a miracle. I waited and waited, but it didn’t come.

[Warning: This review contains spoilers] The Age of Miracles follows the life of 11-year old Julia and her friends and family in Southern California as they experience an apocalypse-like sensation that reaches a level of pandemonious proportions. The earth’s rotation has begun to slow, lengthening the hours in a day, first by a couple of hours, which then extend into days. People begin to suffer from side-effects labeled as gravity sickness. Human circadian rhythms are out of loop. And as a result, the government issues a methodology of clock time, in which citizens could continue to live by a 24-hour clock no matter if it appeared to be day or night outside. However, some believe it natural to live by the light and darkness of the sky, and so they do, calling themselves real timers. The divide of real-timers and those who live on clock time causes a riff among the communities because it poses a threat to societal order. In the midst of the Earth’s slowing, Julia experiences the heartache and happiness that is puberty. She falls in love with the sensitive, skateboarding Seth Moreno, is betrayed and loses the friendship of her best friend, Hanna, and she realizes that her father holds secrets that may threaten the happiness and unity of their family. But as the days grow longer and the rhythm of life is thrown off tune, will Earth survive the slowing?

Reading Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles was a lukewarm experience for me. I didn’t particularly enjoy the novel’s pace, although I wonder if it was a conscious decision by the author as it mirrored that of the Earth’s slowing. Thompson Walker also built up a great deal of anticipation as to how the story would end. But as the ending neared and the book finished, the conclusion was more of a hum rather than a bang. It wasn’t that questions were not answered at the end of the novel, but rather that the title of the book, The Age of Miracles, gave me expectations that the the novel would be magical in a grand fashion. However, the magic or magical elements of the novel fizzled rather than tingled my bones. But perhaps the melancholy ending is Thompson Walker’s way of telling her readers that acts of miracles aren’t always revealed in a grandiose fashion, but quietly, slowly over a period of time. Maybe the miracle itself is the simple fact that Earth, despite the slowing, continued to foster life.

However, I loved and empathized with Thompson Walker’s portrayal of a young girl’s journey through puberty. As a coming of age novel, I thought it was honest and humorous. I liked the way in which Thompson Walker balanced the tone of her narrative to one of being matter-of-fact (that growing up, although exciting and painful, is also inevitable), but also expressing empathy towards Julia as she experiences many new feelings for the first time. Thompson Walker’s characterization of Julia is easily identifiable as she wasn’t the “pretty girl” or the “smart girl.” Julia is a relatable character because she wasn’t type casted into being a particular girl; she was just a girl.

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Editor: Candice Leung

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