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The New York Times Book ReviewWell written and engrossing, this is a tale in which the strangest thing isn't so much the 72-hour days as the odd mix of the commonplace and the catastrophic.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
People ? O: The Oprah Magazine ? Financial Times ? Kansas City Star ? BookPage ? Kirkus Reviews ? Publishers Weekly ? Booklist
With a voice as distinctive and original as that of The Lovely Bones, and for the fans of the ...
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
People ∙ O: The Oprah Magazine ∙ Financial Times ∙ Kansas City Star ∙ BookPage ∙ Kirkus Reviews ∙ Publishers Weekly ∙ Booklist
With a voice as distinctive and original as that of The Lovely Bones, and for the fans of the speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood, Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is a luminous and unforgettable debut novel about coming of age set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“Maybe everything that happened to me and to my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It's possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”
Spellbinding, haunting, The Age of Miracles is a beautiful novel of catastrophe and survival, growth and change, the story of Julia and her family as they struggle to live in an extraordinary time. On an ordinary Saturday, Julia awakes to discover that something has happened to the rotation of the earth. The days and nights are growing longer and longer, gravity is affected, the birds, the tides, human behavior and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray. In a world of danger and loss, Julia faces surprising developments in herself, and her personal world—divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by Hannah and other friends, the vulnerability of first love, a sense of isolation, and a rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking story of people finding ways to go on, in an ever-evolving world.
Praise for The Age of Miracles
“A stunner.”—Justin Cronin
“A genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary, with impressive fluency and flair.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Gripping drama . . . flawlessly written; it could be the most assured debut by an American writer since Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City.”—The Denver Post
“If you begin this book, you’ll be loath to set it down until you’ve reached its end.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Provides solace with its wisdom, compassion, and elegance.”—Curtis Sittenfeld
Don’t miss the exclusive conversation between Karen Thompson Walker and Karen Russell at the back of the book.
“THE SUMMER BOOK.” —Vanity Fair.com
“[AN] EARTHSHAKING DEBUT.” –Entertainment Weekly
“Part speculative fiction, part coming-of-age story…The Age of Miracles could turn Walker into American literature's next big thing.”—NPR
“A tender coming-of-age novel.”—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times
“Walker creates lovely, low-key scenes to dramatize her premise…The spirit of Ray Bradbury hovers in the mixture of the portentous and quotidian.”—The New Yorker
“[Walker] matches the fierce creativity of her imagination with a lyrical and portentous understanding of the present.”—People (4 stars)
“This haunting and soul-stirring novel about the apocalypse is transformative and unforgettable.”—Marie Claire
“Quietly explosive … Walker describes global shifts with a sense of utter realism, but she treats Julia’s personal adolescent upheaval with equal care, delicacy, and poignancy.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“If you begin this book, you'll be loath to set it down until you've reached its end… The Age of Miracles reminds us that we never know when everything will change, when a single event will split our understanding of personal history and all history into a Before and an After.” –The San Francisco Chronicle
“The perfect combination of the intimate and the pandemic…Flawlessly written; it could be the most assured debut by an American writer since Jennifer Egan's ‘Emerald City.’”—Denver Post
“Touching, observant and poetic.”—The Columbus Dispatch
“Simply told, skillfully crafted and filled with metaphorical unities, this resonant first novel [rings] with difficult truths both large and small.”—Kansas City Star
"The Age of Miracles lingers, like a faded photo of a happy time. It is stunning.”–Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Both utterly realistic and fantastically dystopian…The big miracles, Walker seems to be saying, may doom the world at large, but the little ones keep life worth living.”—Minnesota Herald Tribune
“[An] elegiac, moving first novel.”—Newsday
“Arresting… This book cuts bone-deep.” —Austin Chronicle
“Evocative and poetic...I loved this book from the first page.”—Huntington News
“Walker’s tone can be properly [Harper] Lee-esque; both Julia and Scout grapple with the standard childhood difficulties as their societies crumble around them. But life prevails, and the stunning Miracles subtly conveys that adapting.”—Time Out New York
“[A] gripping debut . . . Thompson’s Julia is the perfect narrator. . . . While the apocalypse looms large—has in fact already arrived—the narrative remains fiercely grounded in the surreal and horrifying day-to-day and the personal decisions that persist even though no one knows what to do. A triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum, the story also feels eerily plausible, as if the problems we’ve been worrying about all along pale in comparison to what might actually bring our end.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In Walker’s stunning debut, a young California girl coming of age in a dystopian near future confronts the inevitability of change on the most personal level as life on earth withers … She goes through the trials and joys of first love. She begins to see cracks in her parents’ marriage and must navigate the currents of loyalty and moral uncertainty. She faces sickness and death of loved ones. ... Julia’s life is shaped by what happens in the larger world, but it is the only life she knows, and Walker captures each moment, intimate and universal, with magical precision. Riveting, heartbreaking, profoundly moving.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“What a remarkable and beautifully wrought novel. In its depiction of a world at once utterly like and unlike our own, The Age of Miracles is so convincingly unsettling that it just might make you stockpile emergency supplies of batteries and bottled water. It also—thank goodness—provides great solace with its wisdom, its compassion, and the elegance of its storytelling.”—Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep
“‘Miracles’ indeed. Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel is a stunner from the first page—an end-of-the-world, coming-of-age tale of quiet majesty. I loved this novel and can’t wait to see what this remarkable writer will do next.”—Justin Cronin, author of The Passage
“Is the end near? In Karen Thompson Walker’s beautiful and frightening debut, sunsets are becoming rarities, “real-timers” live in daylight colonies while mainstream America continues to operate on the moribund system of “Clock Time,” and environmentalists rail against global dependence on crops that guzzle light. Against this apocalyptic backdrop, Walker sets the coming-of-age story of brave, bewildered Julia, who wonders at the “malleable rhythms” of the increasingly erratic adults around her. Like master fabulists Steven Millhauser and Kevin Brockmeier, Karen Thompson Walker takes a fantastic premise and makes it feel thrillingly real. In precise, poetic language, she floods the California suburbs with shadows and a doomsday glow, and in this altered light shows us amazing things about how one family responds to a stunningly imagined global crisis.”—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
“This is what imagination is. In The Age of Miracles, the earth’s rotation slows, gravity alters, days are stretched out to fifty hours of sunlight. In the midst of this, a young girl falls in loves, sees things she shouldn't and suffers heartbreak of the most ordinary kind. Karen Thompson Walker has managed to combine fiction of the dystopian future with an incisive and powerful portrait of our personal present.”—Amy Bloom, author of Away
“The Age of Miracles is pure magnificence. Deeply moving and beautifully executed, Karen Thompson Walker has written the perfect novel for the global-warming age.”—Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges
“Reading The Age of Miracles is like gazing into a sky of constellations and being mesmerized by the the strange yet familiar sensation of infinity. Beautifully written, the novel lets the readers see the world within us and the world without with an unforgettable freshness.”—Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
“The Age of Miracles spins its glowing magic through incredibly lucid and honest prose, giving equal care and dignity to the small spheres and the large. It is at once a love letter to the world as we know it and an elegy.”—Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“Gripping from first page to last, The Age of Miracles is itself a small, perfectly formed miracle: Written with the cadence and pitch of poetry, this gem of a novel is a wrenching and all-too-believable parable for our times, and one of the most original coming-of-age stories I have ever read. Karen Thompson Walker is the real deal.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
“The Age of Miracles is harrowing and beautiful on the ways in which those catastrophes already hidden about us in plain sight, once ratcheted up just a bit, provide us with a glimpse of the end of our species’ run on earth: the uncanny distress of hundreds of beached whales, or the surreal unease of waves rolling across the rooftops of beachfront houses. And as it does it reminds us of all of the miracles of human regard that will have taken place before then: the way compassion will retain its resilience, and the way, for those of us in love, a string of afternoons will be as good as a year.”—Jim Shepard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway (National Book Award finalist)
We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it.
We did not sense, at first, the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.
We were distracted, back then, by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets of distant countries. Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that those hours too weren’t still pooling into days, each the same, fixed length known to every human being.
But there were those who would later claim to have recognized the disaster before the rest of us did. These were the night workers, the graveyard shifters, the stockers of shelves, and the loaders of ships, the drivers of big-rig trucks, or else they were the bearers of different burdens: the sleepless and the troubled and the sick. These people were accustomed to waiting out the night. Through bloodshot eyes, a few did detect a certain persistence of darkness on the mornings leading up to the news, but each mistook it for the private misperception of a lonely, rattled mind.
On the sixth of October, the experts went public. This, of course, is the day we all remember. There’d been a change, they said, a slowing, and that’s what we called it from then on: the slowing.
“We have no way of knowing if this trend will continue,” said a shy bearded scientist at a hastily arranged press conference, now infamous. He cleared his throat and swallowed. Cameras flashed in his eyes. Then came the moment, replayed so often afterward that the particular cadences of that scientist’s speech—the dips and the pauses and that slight Midwestern slant—would be forever married to the news itself. He went on: “But we suspect that it will continue.”
Our days had grown by fifty-six minutes in the night.
At the beginning, people stood on street corners and shouted about the end of the world. Counselors came to talk to us at school. I remember watching Mr. Valencia next door fill up his garage with stacks of canned food and bottled water, as if preparing, it now seems to me, for a disaster much more minor.
The grocery stores were soon empty, the shelves sucked clean like chicken bones.
The freeways clogged immediately. People heard the news and they wanted to move. Families piled into minivans and crossed state lines. They scurried in every direction like small animals caught suddenly under a light.
But, of course, there was nowhere on earth to go.
The news broke on a Saturday.
In our house, at least, the change had gone unnoticed. We were still asleep when the sun came up that morning, and so we sensed nothing unusual in the timing of its rise. Those last few hours before we learned of the slowing remain preserved in my memory—even all these years later—as if trapped behind glass.
My friend Hanna had slept over the night before, and we’d camped out in sleeping bags on the living room floor, where we’d slept side by side on a hundred other nights. We woke to the purring of lawn mower motors and the barking of dogs, to the soft squeak of a trampoline as the twins jumped next door. In an hour we’d both be dressed in blue soccer uniforms—hair pulled back, sunscreen applied, cleats clicking on tile.
“I had the weirdest dream last night,” said Hanna. She lay on her stomach, her head propped up on one elbow, her long blonde hair hanging tangled behind her ears. She had a certain skinny beauty that I wished I had too.
“You always have weird dreams,” I said.
She unzipped her sleeping bag and sat up, pressed her knees to her chest. From her slim wrist there jingled a charm bracelet crowded with charms. Among them: one half of a small brass heart, the other half of which belonged to me.
“In the dream, I was at my house, but it wasn’t my house,” she went on. “I was with my mom, but she wasn’t my mom. My sisters weren’t my sisters.”
“I hardly ever remember my dreams,” I said, and then I got up to let the cats out of the garage.
My parents were spending that morning the way I remember them spending every morning, reading the newspaper at the dining room table. I can still see them sitting there: my mother in her green bathrobe, her hair wet, skimming quickly through the pages, while my father sat in silence, fully dressed, reading every story in the order it appeared, each one reflected in the thick lenses of his glasses.
My father would save that day’s paper for a long time afterward—packed away like an heirloom, folded neatly beside the newspaper from the day I was born. The pages of that Saturday’s paper, printed before the news was out, report a rise in the city’s real estate prices, the further erosion of several area beaches, and plans for a new freeway overpass. That week, a local surfer had been attacked by a great white shark; border patrol agents discovered a three-mile long drug-running tunnel six feet beneath the U.S./Mexico border; and the body of a young girl, long missing, was found buried under a pile of white rocks in the wide, empty desert out east. The times of that day’s sunrise and sunset appear in a chart on the back page, predictions that did not, of course, come to pass.
Half an hour before we heard the news, my mother went out for bagels.
I think the cats sensed the change before we did. They were both Siamese, but different breeds. Chloe was sleepy and feathery and sweet. Tony was her opposite: an old and anxious creature, possibly mentally ill, a cat who tore out his own fur in snatches and left it in piles around the house, tiny tumbleweeds set adrift on the carpet.
In those last few minutes, as I ladled dry food into their bowls, the ears of both cats began to swivel wildly toward the front yard. Maybe they felt it, somehow, a shift in the air. They both knew the sound of my mother’s Volvo pulling into the driveway, but I wondered later if they recognized also the unusually quick spin of the wheels as she rushed to park the car, or the panic in the sharp crack of the parking brake as she yanked it into place.
Soon, even I could detect the pitch of my mother’s mood from the stomps of her feet on the porch, the disorganized rattle of her keys against the door—she had heard those earliest news reports, now notorious, on the car radio between the bagel shop and home.
“Turn on the TV right now,” she said. She was breathless and sweaty. She left her keys in the teeth of the lock, where they would dangle all day. “Something God awful is happening.”
We were used to my mother’s rhetoric. She talked big. She blustered. She overstated and oversold. God awful might have meant anything. It was a wide net of a phrase that scooped up a thousand possibilities, most of them benign: hot days and traffic jams, leaking pipes and long lines. Even cigarette smoke, if it wafted too close, could be really and truly God awful.
We were slow to react. My father, in his thinning yellow Padres t-shirt, stayed right where he was at the table, one palm on his coffee cup, the other resting on the back of his neck, as he finished an article in the business section. I went ahead and opened the bag of bagels, letting the paper crinkle beneath my fingers. Even Hanna knew my mother well enough to go right on with what she was doing—hunting for the cream cheese on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
“Are you watching this?” my mother said. We were not.
My mother had been an actress once. Her old commercials—mostly hair care and kitchen products—lay entombed together in a short stack of dusty black videotapes that stood beside the television. People were always telling me how beautiful she was when she was young, and I could still find it in the fair skin of her face and the high structure of her cheekbones, but she’d gained weight in middle age. Now she taught one period of drama at the high school and four periods of history. We lived 95 miles from Hollywood.
She was standing on our sleeping bags, two feet from the television screen. When I think of it now, I imagine her cupping one hand over her mouth the way she always did when she worried, but at the time, I just felt embarrassed by the way the black waffle soles of her running shoes were twisting Hanna’s sleeping bag, hers the dainty cotton kind, pink and polka-dotted and designed not for the hazards of campsites but exclusively for the plush carpets of heated homes.
“Did you hear me?” said my mother, swinging round to look at us. My mouth was full of bagel and cream cheese. A sesame seed had lodged itself between my two front teeth. “Joel!” she shouted at my father. “I’m serious. This is hellacious.”
My father looked up from the paper then, but still he kept his index finger pressed firmly to the page to mark his place. How could we have known that the workings of the universe had finally made appropriate the fire of my mother’s words?
2. Julia is an only child. How does this fact affect who she is and how she sees the world? How would her experience of the slowing be different if she had a sibling? How would her experience of middle school be different?
3. How much do you think the slowing alters Julia’s experience of adolescence? If the slowing had never happened, in what ways would her childhood have been different? In what ways would it have been the same?
4. Julia’s parents’ marriage becomes increasingly strained over the course of the book. Why do you think they stay together? Do you think it’s the right choice? How much do you think Julia’s mother does or does not know about Sylvia?
5. Julia’s father tells several crucial lies. Discuss these lies and consider which ones, if any, are justified and which ones are not. Is lying ever the right thing to do? If so, when?
6. How would the book change if it were narrated by Julia’s mother? What if it were narrated by Julia’s father? Or her grandfather?
7. Why do you think Julia is so drawn to Seth? Why do you think he is drawn to her?
8. Did you identify more with the clock-timers or with the real-timers? Which would you be and why?
9. The slowing affects the whole planet, but the book is set in southern California. How does the setting affect the book? How important is it that the story takes place in California?
10. How do you feel about the way the book ends? What do you think lies ahead for Julia, for her parents, and for the world?
11. The slowing throws the natural world into disarray. Plants and animals die and there are changes in the weather. Did this book make you think about the threats that face our own natural world? Do you think the book has something to say about climate change?
12. If you woke up tomorrow to the news that the rotation of the earth had significantly slowed, how do you think you would respond? What is the first thing you would do?
Posted June 30, 2012
One of the most engrossing books I've read in years, The Age of Miracles tells the story of the end of the innocence and blind faith of childhood against the background of our world on the edge of extinction. As the world begins to crumble and deteriorate around us, so does Julia's childhood, and a haunting story of the inevitability of loss unfolds. This is a a fabulous display from a prmising new author.
31 out of 33 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 27, 2012
I loved the voice the author gave to Julia throughout the book. I found all of the characters relatable and full of depth. The story wows you as it weaves it's depictions of the huge catastrophe happening outside into the every day mundane. I found myself looking at my world a little differently as I read. I would definitely recommend!
My only critique is the ending. I was left wanting a more concrete answer, but as the good books often do, I found myself having to guess at what the future for these characters would hold.
31 out of 34 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2012
loved, loved this book. Could not put it down - finished it in a day. I look forward to more from this author
18 out of 23 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
fantastic book. makes you see the world in a new way. highly recommended.
17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2012
An extremely well-written piece. Mrs. Walker was able to make Julia into someone I cared about on the rare level of greats like Stephen King. All of Julia's hopes, triumphs, and heartbreaks resonate from the pages, culminating in the most distinct message we all hope to leave when we are in that same point in our lives, and beyond. The book ended quickly, but appropriately, and I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't realize I was near the end until a mere ten or so pages from it.
An excellent debut novel, I look forward to more releases from Mrs. Walker.
13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2012
I love, love, love this book and all the characters! I finished it in 2 days! It's so full of suspense, I couldn't put it down.
11 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 1, 2012
The story was an engrossing one but it ended with a disappointing fizzle. It left me crying for at least some kind of explanation or denouement. Perhaps a sequel is in the works.
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Posted July 14, 2012
Posted December 6, 2012
This book lured me in from start to finish. It's one of those books that takes you to another place, and you feel like you actually live in its setting and know its characters on a personal level. I also enjoyed this new idea of the end of the world -- the slowing of its rotation. It engrossed me simply because it's a fresh idea that hasn't been over-done by other means of media and entertainment. The only problem I had with the book was its ending -- to me, it didn't feel resolved. But, I didn't dwell on that too much because regardless of its ending, it was such a powerful book that had me in its grip all the way through. Read it! You won't be sorry.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 1, 2012
Really goid read fir the summer not so much about tge end of the world and more about the end of innocence of childhiod
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Posted July 6, 2012
This book was a quick read from an intriguing point of view. I enjoyed it very much & would read more from this author in the future!
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Posted July 5, 2012
Posted July 2, 2012
I read a review that said this book is "science fiction, but not" and that really sums it up well. I loved it, though the ending seemed a bit tacked on and rushed..still, it's a small quibble and doesn't at all detract from the rest of the novel.
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Posted July 9, 2012
What would happen if the earth's rotation progressively slowed? As seen through the eyes of a lonely 12 year old who watches as things fall apart both on the outside and at home. At 225 pages a brisk, engaging read which makes the unimageable quite real.
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Posted June 30, 2012
Posted July 29, 2012
What would happen if the world slowed down its rotation? How would that impact our everyday life? The story of first love makes the loss and sadness even more real. A wonderful summer book. Very thought-provoking and touching.
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Posted July 26, 2012
Told from the view of an 11 year old girl going through the aches and pains of puberty, greatly compliments the changing of the planet. This book is scientifically well founded and you can tell if you watch as much Science Channel as I do. This is a great book club book! Please read it and help support this author!
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Posted July 24, 2012
I found the book very engrossing if somewhat disturbing. While the reason for the planet's demise was left unanswered it painted a haunting picture of what could happen to our planet if we continue to treat it poorly. Really liked the characters. I felt the end came a little abruptly but not jarringly so.
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Posted January 28, 2013
I am honestly not even sure where to begin with this review. The Age of Miracles is as quotable as a John Green book - but I was over halfway through it before I realized that I still hadn't decided whether or not I actually liked the book. My initial impression is that it seems as though Walker was trying to write a coming-of-age story, but added a sci-fi element to it to make it more unique.
The story is told from Julia's perspective through first-person narration. It's also told as though the narrator is living at some point in the future - but the reader doesn't learn until the end from how far into the future Julia is remembering the time.
Something unusual about the book is that, like the characters in Julia's world, the reader can't keep up with the timeline of events. Walker's ambiguous writing style ensures readers are unable to discern exactly how much time has passed from one moment to the next - until Julia gives us a reference point. It left me with the feeling that the book covered much more time than it actually did - which made the pacing too slow.
I did like The Age of Miracles. The story could have used some adult input, though my guess is it wasn't done because the author would have had to explain more about what was going on in the world.
The Age of Miracles, more than anything, is a book that will make you think - about science, about humans, about everything that lives on this planet. As you can see from my indecision about how much I liked it - it has certainly made me think. [And Google, if I'm completely honest. It's been a while since I've taken a science course.]
I generally enjoy books that make me think more about the world and "what if" scenarios. For that reason, this book rated higher than it would have otherwise. I can see this book being placed on recommended reading lists in schools as it would facilitate science lectures and discussions. It will likely inspire questions as to the accuracy of how a similar, real-life situation would play out.
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