Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

It has been weeks since I finished Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

The subject matter is challenging and daunting: written from the perspective of Julia, a pre-teen living in suburban California, Age of Miracles imagines that the rotation of the earth starts to slow.

Daylight stretches well into the night, darkness lasts well into the day. Clock time becomes a thing of the past as the earth spins slower and slower.

Age of Miracles is an intriguing read. It draws attention to just how fragile our existence really is.

The whole way through, I kept asking myself: what would happen if the earth really did start spinning more slowly?

The beauty of this book is that no one really knows. Age of Miracles is therefore an educated guess, an imagined circumstance, told through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl who is growing up and trying to find her place in the world.

Julia talks to the reader as if she is writing in her diary. She tells you all about the slowing, about the dark days and the white nights. But she also tells you about Seth Moreno, the quiet boy on the bus, and Sylvia, her eccentric piano teacher.

She worries about being invited to birthday parties and what to wear to school, while her mother stocks up on tinned food and bottled water.

Her dad, a doctor, works long hours and firmly believes that ‘all will come right’.

You, the reader, are pulled into Julia’s small world, where she goes to school, eats dinner with her mum, kisses Seth Moreno, all against the dramatic backdrop of ‘the slowing’.

Among visits to her grandfather or piano lessons, birds start to fall from the sky in the hundreds. Plants die. People get sick. Some leave the cities and start up communes in the desert. The religious flock together and prepare for the end. Julia does her homework and holds Seth Moreno’s hand.

All of the elements of this book come together superbly. It’s so easy to read you’ll be finished it in days. But the importance of the subject matter will linger with you for a long time.

Often, when I am enjoying the sun, or watching it set after another busy day, I will feel grateful that earth offers us this consistency: the setting of the sun, the rising of the moon, day in, day out.

Age of Miracles draws attention to the things we take for granted. It makes you appreciate nature in its simplicity – or should I say complexity?

It makes you thankful that among the uncertainties of this world, one thing we can rely on is that the earth keeps spinning. Or at least we can rely on this for now.

I’d highly recommend Age of Miracles. The only downside to this book is that it left me wanting more. It provides you with only the tiniest glimpse of the effect of the slowing – all you really see is the impact it has on Julia’s life. I wanted to know what it was doing to other parts of the world, how people everywhere were faring.

I wanted answers, conclusions, explanations.

But the author only gives away so much. For the rest, you’ll have to use your imagination.

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