Book review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles front cover — no copyright infringement intended. All rights remain with their respective owners

Image source: The Age of Miracles at Amazon.com

I was lucky to get an advanced review copy of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and I just finished reading it. It is a striking, original début novel and it is definitely one to watch out for when it arrives in book stores next month on June 26.

I’ll give you a brief summary of the plot before I share my thoughts on this novel. The Age of Miracles is set in California….wonderful, sunny Southern California, in a quiet everyday neighborhood. But then the Slowing begins. The earth begins slowing down, meaning that the days and nights grow longer and longer until our human concept of 24 hours in a day no longer has any relevance. Julia, the protagonist, is eleven years old when this takes place but the story is narrated by Julia when she is older and looking back on the events of “the slowing”. The author, Karen Thompson Walker, thoughtfully describes the changes which take place when “the slowing” happens: changes in gravity and Circadian rhythms, the death of birds and crops. Catastrophes are woven with the story of a young girl beginning adolescence, creating a multilayered story of people going about their daily lives in a setting which feels very unreal.

This is a novel which is all about time and its power over us. Even though the government attempts to enforce the 24 hour clock, nature is ever-powerful. As this article from the website of the British newspaper, The Guardian points out, The Age of Miracles is “eerily prescient” because something like this could actually happen. When the massive earthquake struck Japan last year, it moved our planet on its axis, causing our day to shorten “by a fraction of a second”. The Age of Miracles has a quietly apocalyptic feel to it: there are no dramatic explosions, no zombies parading the streets, no extraterrestrial beings conquering the Earth. And it is this fact that makes it so believable; it’s not your typical sci-fi novel.

However, although the novel is well-written and the concept is engaging, I am disappointed by what I think is a weak ending. The book leads the reader on to wonder what will happen but then, all of a sudden, you arrive at an anti-climactic and forgettable ending. The ending is my main issue with the novel. I tend to avoid giving stars or points in my reviews but if I had to rate this on a scale of 1 – 10 I would probably give it a 5 or a 6: I enjoyed reading it and it gripped me but the ending was unsatisfying. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading it though; despite the fact that my enjoyment was somewhat negated by the ending, The Age of Miracles is a thought-provoking read and Karen Thompson Walker is a talent to watch out for. For more info and to read an extract from the book, visit the website at theageofmiraclesbook.com.

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