The Age of Miracles [NOOK Book]

Overview

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and 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.”

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, ...
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The Age of Miracles

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Overview

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and 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.”

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, 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.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Adolescence is, by definition, a time of change, but for 11-year-old Julia and her classmates, the strangeness of that experience is redoubled and redoubled. The rotation of the planet, it seems, is slowing, changing the relationship of day to night and earthling to earthling. As those around her panic or revolt, Julia makes her own preteen adjustments to this looming apocalypse. Unlike any other fiction, this debut strikes at the core of who we are as humans. A Discover Great New Writers selection; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

The New York Times Book Review
Well 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.
—Alison McCulloch
Publishers Weekly
In this gripping debut, 11-year-old Julia wakes one day to the news that the earth’s rotation has started slowing. The immediate effects—no one at soccer practice; relentless broadcasts of the same bewildered scientists—soon feel banal compared to what unfolds. “The slowing” is growing slower still, and soon both day and night are more than twice as long as they once were. When governments decide to stick to the 24-hour schedule (ignoring circadian rhythms), a subversive movement erupts, “real-timers” who disregard the clock and appear to be weathering the slowing better than clock-timers—at first. Thompson’s Julia is the perfect narrator. On the brink of adolescence, she’s as concerned with buying her first bra as with the birds falling out of the sky. She wants to be popular as badly as she wants her world to remain familiar. 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. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (June)
From the Publisher

Praise for The Age of Miracles
 
“[A] moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary with impressive fluency and flair … Ms. Walker has an instinctive feel for narrative architecture, creating a story, in lapidary prose, that moves ahead with a sense of both the inevitable and the unexpected … Ms. Walker maps [her characters’] inner lives with such sure-footedness that they become as recognizable to us as people we’ve grown up with or watched for years on television… [A] precocious debut…one of this summer’s hot literary reads.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“THE NEXT BIG FEMALE NOVELIST.” —Rolling Stone

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

“Haunting.”—Real Simple

“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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679644385
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 28,603
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Karen Thompson Walker is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program and a recipient of the 2011 Sirenland Fellowship as well as a Bomb magazine fiction prize. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she wrote The Age of Miracles in the mornings before work. Born and raised in San Diego, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband. The Age of Miracles is her first book.
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Read an Excerpt

9780812992977|excerpt

Arthur / BENEATH A RISING MOON

Chapter One

The music swirled through the darkness, its beat rich and seductive. Night cloaked the ballroom—­a mantle challenged only by the occasional flicker of a torch burning high on the rough-­hewn stone walls. On the dance floor, couples swayed to the music, their bodies so close they almost seemed to be one. Heat and sweat mingled with the growing odor of lust and need—­scents that stirred her senses, made her hunger.

Neva Grant looked uneasily over her shoulder. Though the moon was masked beneath the clouds that crowded the night sky, she could feel its presence. Feel its power.

The full moon was too close. She shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t be doing this when the wildness within was so close to the surface.

But she’d made her promises, and she intended to see them through—­no matter what the cost.

She let her gaze roam the dance floor again. Somewhere down there, a killer lurked. A man who was using this secluded, exotic retreat as his own private hunting ground.

A man she had every intention of finding. And slaying.

She raised her glass and finished the last of her wine. The alcohol slithered warmth through her body, and perspiration beaded her skin. Hunger rose, flashing white-­hot through her veins. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Not tonight. Please, not tonight.

But the pulsing need suggested it was already too late for such prayers. The wildness had woken. It would not remain leashed for long.

Maybe she shouldn’t even bother trying. The killer seemed to be choosing the more adventurous of this wanton crowd. Unleashing the wildness might be the quickest way of attracting his attention.

Bile rose up her throat and she swallowed heavily. While she had no real choice about what she had to do tonight, she wasn’t about to give the wolf within free rein. She wasn’t like any of the hunters who danced on the floor below. Her world was one of sunshine and restraint, of trying to live normally.

These people rejoiced in the night and the power of the moon. They came to this mansion for the freedom and the safety it offered, seeking to sate the moon-­spun lust surging through their veins. That was why most of the men were naked, and why most of the women wore little more than wisps of material that covered everything yet left nothing to the imagination. Only their faces were concealed. Once the moon’s spell had faded and daylight returned, they would return to their packs, picking up their lives where they’d left off, not knowing the faces of any of those they’d chosen to mate with.

Unlike her pack, these wolves were free spirits, exhilarated by the thrill of the chase, by the excitement of capture and possession. The belief in one mate, one life partner, had never touched these dark halls.

But for her promise, she would not be here tonight.

She put aside her glass, then adjusted her ornate mask and made her way down the stairs. The deeper shadows that lined the walls were filled with hunters in various stages of mating. She forced her gaze away even though the wildness within yearned to watch. Hungered to join them.

Her stomach turned again. God, she hated this place. Hated everything it represented. Given the choice, she’d rather burn the Sinclair estate to the ground than be walking its halls. She wasn’t a prude; far from it. She’d given in to the power of the moon more than once herself. But if it wasn’t for this place, if it wasn’t for the wanton and careless behavior of its guests, her twin sister would not now be lying in the hospital, so close to death.

Tears stung her eyes, and she took a deep breath. Don’t think. Just do.

She moved onto the dance floor, inching her way past the slowly dancing couples. Her pulse throbbed in time to the music’s heavy beat, and the deep-­down ache grew stronger.

She clenched her fists and made her way toward the rear exit. She’d spent most of her adult life fighting the worst of her desires, and she would not give in now. Not even here in this place of dark freedom.

And yet, at the same time, she knew she’d do whatever she had to—­even unleashing the wildness—­if it led her to the man who had attacked her twin.

She’d studied the files in Savannah’s office before she’d come down here this evening. The killer had struck three times—­each time near dawn and just beyond the boundaries of the Sinclair mansion. The victims were always alone, though forensics had, not surprisingly, found evidence to suggest each victim had taken more than half a dozen lovers the night of their deaths. Savannah and the other werewolf rangers who patrolled the Ripple Creek Reservation—­which was the mountain homeland of the four Colorado wolf packs—­believed that the killer was shadowing his victims as they left the mansion, and attacking once they were clear. But they had no proof of this—­nothing more than scents and suspicions. And neither of those were admissible in court, be it human or werewolf.

Savannah had been following one such scent when she’d been attacked by a silver wolf. Only the fact that she’d been in wolf form herself had saved her. The winter coat of their tribe was thick, and the silver wolf had been unable to gain a true grip around her sister’s throat. But even so, her wounds were multiple and life threatening.

And Neva had shared the last, terrifying moments of her twin’s horror. While she never wanted to go through something like that again, in the end it was the link between them that had saved Savannah. Her sister had siphoned Neva’s stronger psychic abilities and used them to finally fend off her attacker.

Neva closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Even now, her sister’s pain edged Neva’s consciousness. When she’d left home this evening, the doctors still weren’t sure if Savannah would survive. Even she couldn’t say with any degree of certainty. Savannah was hanging on by the slenderest of threads, and it wouldn’t take much to snatch that lifeline away.

Which was why Neva had touched her twin’s unresponsive mind and made a silent vow: she’d hunt down the killer and finish what her sister had started if Savannah found the strength to live.

It may have been foolish, but it was better than sitting at home, waiting for the worst.

But unlike Savannah, she was no ranger. Far from it. She had no idea how to load a weapon, let alone shoot, and she only had a wolf’s natural skills when it came to tracking. But she was still far from defenseless. Like most of the wolves of her tribe, she rated high in telepathy, but she was also almost off the scale empathically. The two abilities combined could be a deadly weapon if one knew how to use them properly—­as the wolf who’d attacked Savannah had learned.

So far, Neva had kept her shields up tonight. Skimming the minds of hunters when the moon bloomed was far too dangerous and would attract the kind of sexual interest she was trying to avoid. Besides, she might just alert the killer she was here, seeking him.

The rangers believed it was probably one of the Sinclairs behind the killings, but they were a large and closed-­mouthed pack and had yet to provide the rangers with any real help. And while the Sinclairs were all silver wolves, like the one who had attacked her sister, they did not have a monopoly on the color. Even in her own pack, which were primarily golden-­coated, silver could be found.

No, she’d never find the killer roaming the outskirts of the Sinclair stronghold. It was doubtful if even the rangers could. It had to be done from within. And there was only one way she could achieve that. Goose bumps skated across her skin, and she sent a silent prayer to the moon for strength.

She’d spent a good part of the day studying the Sinclair lineage. The wolf she’d chosen to seduce was the pack leader’s third son. By all accounts, he was the wildest of them all, but he was the only one who’d been away from home when the first two murders had occurred. So he was safe—­or as safe as any of the Sinclairs could be.

She’d also spent time studying the mansion’s floor plans before coming here, and she had talked to Betise, a regular customer at her family’s diner. Though barely thirty-­six, Betise had been attending moon dances at the mansion for a good twenty years and knew the place almost as well as the Sinclairs themselves. It had been Betise who told her that Duncan Sinclair rarely joined the dance before midnight, and that before then he could usually be found close to his rooms on the west side of the mansion.

Of course, he’d been away for ten years, and anybody—­even the wildest of the wild—­could change in that amount of time. But for her sister’s sake she had to hope that wasn’t the case.

She hurried out the rear doors. The night breeze stirred her flimsy skirt. Its touch was cool against the fever-­kissed skin of her thighs. She glanced skyward again, judging the time by the position of a moon she could feel, not see. Close to midnight. She had to hurry. She tugged the delicate material clear of her bare feet and ran to the back of the mansion.

A cherub-­filled fountain came into sight. She slowed, scanning the windows until she found his. Her heart was beating so fast it felt as if it would tear free of her chest, and she knew the cause was fear, not exertion. She’d never done anything like this before. She didn’t know if she even had what it took to attract, let alone hold, a wolf with Duncan Sinclair’s experience.

But she had to try. It was the safest way to gain full access to the mansion.

She could smell only one wolf in the rooms above, and there were no others in the immediate area. So Betise’s information had been accurate. If she pulled this off, Neva was going to keep the woman supplied with free coffee for the next year.

She walked over to the fountain and stripped off the flimsy excuse for a gown. Then she stepped into the icy water, avoiding the most vigorous of the water-­spewing cherubs as she turned her attention to his window.

Everything she’d learned about Duncan Sinclair suggested he liked a chase and preferred his mates to be sexually adventurous. While she could never claim to be that, she was a wolf, and the moon was high. And Betise had offered more than a few tips.

But she couldn’t exactly send out a blatant invitation to the man. The rules of the moon dance said no names, so she had to be a little more devious. The Sinclairs were the only other wolf pack who were strong telepaths, so she just had to make it seem he was catching her thoughts.

Lord, I ache tonight.

She kept her mind voice breathy, wistful. For several tense seconds, nothing happened, then his presence stirred and he walked across to the windows. She dipped her fingers into the water and wet her neck, letting the cool droplets dribble between her breasts.

Hunger surged through the night—­a force so strong it almost knocked her over. His need for the dance was high. Very high. The thought churned her stomach, but she was here now and would not back away.

She let her gaze roam the windows until she saw him. If his shadow was to be believed, he was big. Bigger than she’d expected. She cupped another handful of water, sipping it quickly to ease the dryness in her throat.

Why do you ache? The moon is high and the night free.

His mind voice was rich and husky, and stirred her senses with longing. She clenched her fists. She had to remain in control. She couldn’t let the wildness free.

Perhaps I am choosy.

You can be choosy as many times as you like on a night such as this. Amusement swam across her senses, warm and sensual.

Perhaps I long for a more careful seduction once the initial fire has passed.

His silhouette stirred. She caught the brief glimpse of a muscular arm before the shadows closed in again. A difficult request when the moon rides high.

So it would seem. She arched her back, stretching her arms skyward. The emotive swirl of his thoughts became a wall of heat. He wanted her, of that she was certain. Whether he would take her was unclear. He hadn’t yet moved from his dark hideaway.

Perhaps I should go home. The moon, it seems, offers me no comfort tonight.

He hesitated. Perhaps we should talk further on the matter.

The bait had been taken. Now to snare him fully. But the elation that ran through her was tempered by the knowledge that true victory would mean spending the rest of the week in this man’s bed. But it was a small price to pay when her sister’s life hung in the balance.

She considered him a moment longer, not wanting to seem too eager. You are little more than a shadow to me. I cannot discuss possibilities with someone I cannot see.

The French window opened and he stepped out onto the balcony. Her heart slammed into the wall of her chest, then it seemed to drop somewhere to the vicinity of her toes.

He was tall, close to six feet, if not over, his build quietly powerful but lean like an athlete’s. His hair was dark and long, full of unruly waves that brushed his shoulders. His face was that of a dark angel’s—­beautiful and yet somehow sinister. And while it may have been true that the eyes were the window of the soul, this man’s were shuttered and black. There was nothing to be read in his expression—­or the lack of it. If not for the hunger that burned between them, she would have thought him uninterested.

Do you like what you see?

She gave a disinterested shrug. Looks are not the measure of the man. Even though this man’s looks were stirring her in ways no man’s ever had before.

A wise statement for one so young.

She raised her eyebrows, a smile teasing her lips. And that is a very condescending statement from one likewise so young.

Amusement touched his sensual mouth. He crossed his arms and continued to regard her in that oddly disturbing manner of his.

I have squeezed many years of living into this young body, believe me.

So his reputation had suggested. Had she any other choice, she would have stayed far away from this particular wolf and his wild, hungry ways. But he was the only Sinclair the rangers did not have under suspicion and, therefore, her safest route into the Sinclair stronghold.

Ah. Then perhaps you have little interest in one less well traveled. She picked up her gown and pulled it on. The sheer material clung to her damp breasts and caressed her aching nipples. Again his need swam around her, leaving her breathless.

I did not say that.

No. She hesitated and stepped from the water, then raised her gaze challengingly to his. I intend to leave. But if you can find me before I depart these grounds, we shall indeed . . . talk . . . more on this matter.

She turned around and walked away, not looking back. Yet his gaze burned into her back as surely as his hunger sent a fever blistering across her skin. He would come for her, she was certain of that.

Now all she had to do was pray she could hold his attention for more than just one night.
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Reading Group Guide

A Conversation Between Karen Russell and Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Russell, a  native of Miami, has been featured in The New Yorker’s  debut fiction  issue and on  The New Yorker’s  20 Under 40 list, and was chosen  as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. In 2009,  she received the 5 Under 35 award from  the National Book Foundation. Three  of her short stories  have been selected for the Best American Short Stories volumes;  “Proving Up,” previously titled “The Hox River Window,” won the National Mag- azine Award for Fiction in 2012. Her story collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, was the winner  of the Bard Fiction Prize. Her first novel, Swamplandia!, was  a New York Times 10 Best Books  of the Year selection, and winner  of the New  York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. She is a graduate  of the Columbia MFA program  and a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow.

Karen Russell: Congratulations on The Age of Miracles and its incredible success, Karen! Like so many readers, I was blown  away by Julia’s story. I feel privileged  to have seen pieces of the book in utero,  way back in our  graduate workshop.  Could  you talk  just a little bit about the book’s evolution? What  tipped you off that this was a novel and not  a short  story?

Karen Thompson Walker:
The book started  as a short   story, and it was  a bit of an experiment. I’d never written  anything that broke the rules of reality in any way. I got the idea for the premise— the sudden slowing of the rotation of the earth—after reading that the rotation of the earth had been affected by the 2004  earthquake in Indonesia. I found that news really haunting,  and I immediately began  to imagine  what might  happen if we  ever  faced  a much larger  change. In the original short  story, the days got shorter  in- stead of longer,  and it was just a onetime   change—the   twenty- four-hour   day shrank  to twenty-three  hours  and then stabilized. But the  voice  and  Julia’s character were both pretty  similar to the way they  are in the novel. I set the story aside for a few years and started working  in book publishing.   Eventually,   when I looked back at the story,  I sensed that there might  be a larger narrative  to tell. The real breakthrough moment in terms of turning it into a novel came when I decided to change the slowing  from  a onetime catastrophe to an ongoing and worsening  one, becoming more extreme with each passing  day. That gave me a road to follow  as well as the level of momentum  I needed to tell a novel-length story.

KR:
The  first-person  narration  of The  Age of  Miracles is retrospective—the adult Julia is reinhabiting her eleven-year-old self, looking  back at the slowing  through  the tunnel  of memory. It’s the beginning of her young life;  it also appears to be the beginning of the end for all life on the planet. What  made you decide to foreground the story  of Julia’s coming   of age—to narrate the slowing from a child’s point of view? To focus in on the microcosm of her family, her Californian neighborhood?

KTW:
I love stories  about childhood, especially when the voice is retrospective. An adult  looking  back on childhood  is always   a story  about a lost  era; we can never be children  again. That simple fact gives  the voice an inherent   melancholy  and nostalgia  that seemed exactly right for a novel  about what might  be the  end of the world. As she narrates, Julia is charting the loss of two precious worlds: her childhood, but also life on earth as everyone once knew it.
Focusing on adolescence—a time when everything feels so immediate  and new—was   also  a way of making sure that this large- scale  story about global catastrophe would  feel  as personal  and intimate  as possible.

KR: According to Wittgenstein, “The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden  because of their simplicity  and ordinariness, everydayness. One is unable to notice something— because it is always before one’s eyes.” In The Age of Miracles,  you use a planetwide  catastrophe to reveal the miraculous qualities of the  everyday. The slowing  forces both its cast of characters  and its readers to consider  the scope of what we take for granted, both when it comes to “the workings of the  universe” and the  equilibrium within our own families.  What  are some of the things that the characters in your novel are now able to “see,”  thanks to the slow- ing? What  is revealed as precious, miraculous,  to Julia? What  did you come to view as most miraculous/fantastic  about our everyday lives after writing the novel?

KTW:
Leave it to Wittgenstein (and you) to articulate so crisply and aptly something  I’ve  only  gradually come to realize. For me, the most memorable fiction is the kind that feels simultaneously familiar and new. I think that’s the trick of writing fiction and the pleasure of reading it: that mix of recognition and surprise. Ordinary life can be hard to write  about in a way that  feels  interesting, but when I hit upon the idea of the slowing—the sudden and disastrous   change in the rotation of the earth—I realized  that it would allow me to write about the meaning of our daily lives in a way that might feel fresh. The looming  catastrophe had a way of removing the everydayness from  everyday life, of making the ordi- nary seem suddenly extraordinary. As I wrote the book, I felt more and more thankful  for uneventful  days, for the reliable rising and setting of the sun, and  for the thousands of coincidences  that allow human life to survive on earth at all.

KR:
I thought  the pacing of your novel was superb,  and I really admired  the way you generate suspense  within  the slowing by taking  advantage of the retrospective narration to hint at some imminent  development—for  example, right  before  a major plot turn, Julia recalls, “It was just a moment  later that  I lost her. It was later estimated that we were traveling  at forty-five miles per hour.” Was pacing something  that came naturally  to you, or part of the revision process? How  much of the story  did you know in advance? Were there any out-of-the-blue  developments that shocked you, things  you never guessed would happen when you started writing your novel?

KTW: I think pacing is one of the  hardest aspects of story- telling. It can be difficult for a writer  to evaluate the pacing of his or her own novel, but readers are great at it. Readers always notice when  a story  is moving too fast or too slow.  For me, the  key to learning to write fiction was learning  to read my own work as if I were reading someone else’s. That process, which I try to do at the same time  as I write, is a major  act of the imagination,  one that’s just as important  to my writing  as the imagination it takes to create the characters and the story. When I was writing  The Age of Miracles, I had a general idea of the arc of the novel, but I didn’t always know what would happen in the next  chapter. I like to feel  a little suspense  as I write, and I hope that carries over to the reader.

KR: Throughout the book, I was dazzled by the quality  of your details, how fully you imagine  the  consequences of the slowing, both  large and small—earthworms sizzle on patios and birds  fall from the sky, the “flesh of avocados turns black from  the frosts,” en- vironmentalists make ominous  pronouncements about the world’s dependence on  crops  “guzzling  up light.”  Flannery  O’Connor writes,   “Fiction is an art that calls for the strictest  attention to the real—whether  the writer is writing a  naturalistic story or a fantasy. . . . I would even go so far as to say that the person writing a fantasy has to be even more strictly attentive to the concrete detail than someone writing in a naturalistic vein—because the greater the story’s  strain on credulity,  the more convincing the proper- ties in it have to be.” Can you talk  a little bit about the work you did to make your premise feel so frighteningly   real?  What kind of research did you do? What  was the most surprising  thing you learned during  your research? Which of the  many changes that you imagined here did you find most personally haunting or upset- ting? (I am still thinking about  Seth’s sunburn,  and the children petting  the dessicated whales, for example.)

KTW: What a  great quote from  Flannery  O’Connor. I completely  agree with   her.  My goal was to treat this story  as if I were writing realism. I wanted the premise  to feel as convincing as the characters, so that the reader would feel true concern for the people in the book. In order to make the slowing feel as real as possible,  I took  a lot of details  from  daily newspaper stories:  strange weather, extinctions of species, studies  on human  circadian rhythms  and even the unfolding  of the global financial crisis. I also showed the book to an astrophysicist,  which was a nerve-racking   but crucial experience. Fortunately, I was relieved by how many of my details he found  plausible,  especially once you take the imaginative  leap that something   completely  unexpected has  happened. He also helped me fix a few  things. For me, the most haunting consequence in the book is probably the simplest, the one that inspired  me to write this story in the first place: just the idea of not knowing  when or if the sun will ever rise again.

KR:
One of the fascinating developments in the slowing  occurs when world governments  ask their  people to “carry on  exactly as we always  had.” Most people live  on “Clock Time”—persisting on the twenty-four-hour  clock, even as the earth’s rotation continues to slow  and the spacing between daylight  and darkness grows more erratic. Is their commitment to “normalcy” courageous or foolhardy? More generally, in an irreversible movement like the slowing, is nostalgia   a life-preserver or a  trap? Sometimes  Julia’s parents’  insistence  on maintaining  an ordinary  home life in the face of the slowing seems like an act of supreme  courage; at other times, their nostalgia for their lives pre-slowing reads as stubborn, delusional. It puts Julia at risk. I love  the  scene  where  Julia’s father lingers in the house of his former girlfriend on the beach—a literal and figurative relic, which is filling with seawater.

KTW:
The slowing  introduces  a sudden chaos into  the lives  of everyone on earth. In a world  in which the twenty-four-hour  clock no longer  corresponds to darkness  and daylight,   and no  one can predict when the sun will rise  and set, it seemed natural  to me that many people would  respond with a strong  desire  for the familiar and the orderly. Thus, most of society clings to the stability  of the twenty-four-hour clock, even though  it means that children sometimes  go to school in the dark and people must  try to sleep during daylight. Whether  that impulse is courageous or foolhardy  is hard to say—perhaps it’s both things  at once. There’s no good solution to the situation  these  people are facing.  All they  can do is try to carry on in the  face of the unknown. In that sense, their lives are not so different from ours; it’s just that unlike most of us, they can no longer ignore the basic uncertainty inherent in every human life.

KR: You know, like Julia, I too  had a crush on that Seth Moreno! The slowing is one heck of a dramatic backdrop for first love—how do you think the hothouse  bloom of their  romance is affected by this crisis?  How did you see the slowing altering the ordinary course of their  development more generally? To me, Julia and Seth often felt simultaneously regressive, childlike, and preternaturally adult. They  sneak out at night, trespass, have old-fashioned summer fun, but of course they will never have an old-fashioned summer again, now that the slowing has changed everything.

KTW:
I think the relationship between Julia  and Seth is the emotional  core of the book. I didn’t always know that their  young love story would play such a large role  in the novel, but I loved writ- ing about it. When we’re going through  adolescence, our  romantic interests feel incredibly pressing and meaningful, but once we grow up, I think we tend  to be kind  of dismissive of those early bonds and crushes.  Letting this love story  unfold  against the backdrop of an apocalyptic   scenario   was  a way of injecting  new meaning into the small-scale  highs  and lows of adolescent relationships. Seth and Julia do the things  that many of us did as children  or teenagers— they tell  one another secrets, hold hands, and share a first kiss—but in their world,  theirs  may be the last generation to experience all those familiar  rites of passage.  I hope that  fact makes their story feel as urgent as our own love stories  felt when we were their  age.


KR:
There are many mysteries in The Age of Miracles, from the cause  of the slowing  itself, to people’s  inexplicable personality changes and erratic  behavior,  to the disappearance of Julia’s grand- father. Some of these mysteries  are solved by the novel’s end,  but many remain. I thought  that  the scientists’ bafflement  made the crisis feel that much more credible. What  guided you as you decided which mysteries to resolve and which questions  to leave un- answered?

KTW:
The book is very much about uncertainty,  so I knew I didn’t want an ending that would suddenly answer every question and  resolve  every conflict.   The slowing baffles scientists—they cannot explain it and they  cannot change it. Similarly,  Julia will never completely  understand  the people around her. As a species, I think we tend to think we know more than we do, but there’s still so much—about the universe as well as one another—that we can- not yet comprehend. I think there’s a certain  beauty  in that mystery, but it’s also unnerving, and I hoped that The Age of Miracles, particularly  the ending, would capture both of those qualities.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 294 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 30, 2012

    One of the most engrossing books I've read in years, The Age of

    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.

    32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2012

    I loved the voice the author gave to Julia throughout the book.

    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  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 28, 2012

    loved, loved this book. Could not put it down - finished it in

    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  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 28, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    fantastic book. makes you see the world in a new way. highly r

    fantastic book. makes you see the world in a new way. highly recommended.

    17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Fantastic Page-Turner

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Awesome!

    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  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 1, 2012

    Is That All There Is?

    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.

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    dont Don't bother

    Easy read but boring,no depth to characters, just a dull narrative

    8 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 27, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good book. Full of suspense. Was sorry to see it end

    Very good book. Full of suspense. Was sorry to see it end

    8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 6, 2012

    This book lured me in from start to finish.  It's one of those b

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Good Summer Read

    Really goid read fir the summer not so much about tge end of the world and more about the end of innocence of childhiod

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    Intriguing

    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!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    Great read!

    I loved this book. Read it in a day. Can't stop thinking about it.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Beautiful.

    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.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    Loved it

    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.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Worth a read!

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    Loved it!

    Definitely a good read. Finished it in two days!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2012

    Spectacular Debut Novel!!

    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!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    Thought provoking good read

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2013

    I am honestly not even sure where to begin with this review. The

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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