Review: ‘The Age of Miracles’ by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is about a young girl and what happens in her life when suddenly the earth begins to slow. Hours of daylight increase, hours of darkness increase, and soon the clocks are completely out of sync with the earth’s natural day.

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I love a good dystopian novel and this sounded interesting, but I wasn’t yet convinced. I feel like I have been waiting for a book to amaze me as much as The Humans and I’m aware that’s a difficult feat. So I used my handy method of reading the first chapter right there in the shop and it impressed me. Take this quotation, about how people reacted when the news of the earth’s ‘slowing’ was announced:

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.

Genius! And there are several sections of the work that have the same effect. There is beautiful writing in this book, and you can hear more examples by viewing the trailer on the book’s website:

http://www.theageofmiraclesbook.com/

Thompson Walker is an excellent writer. Unfortunately, it was the focus of the novel that made it fall a bit flat for me. I was interested in the effects of the slowing. What might happen if the worst comes to the worst one day and the world really has had enough? I thought the slowing would be a metaphor for any number of consequences arising from the way we treat the planet. However, the focus of the novel itself was actually on Julia, navigating school without her best friend, dealing with family issues and her first friendship/relationship with a boy. (She’s eleven and turns twelve; I wouldn’t call it a relationship.)

I know this isn’t really something you’re supposed to say, but when it came to young Julia and her parents and her crush, I didn’t really care. The world might actually stop turning and you still don’t even have the guts to talk to the boy? Get a grip, girl! I wasn’t invested in the majority of the characters. I only really liked her grandfather, an eccentric old man who manages more character development in about three scenes than the rest manage in the entire book.

There are other issues. The book never went anywhere, for one. For another, I don’t like seeing capital letters after colons, although I’m aware of the grammatical ‘rule’ and differences between British/American tendencies. There was one big, fat, plain old mistake in the misspelling of ‘practice’ – ‘practice’ is a noun, while the verb is ‘practise’. Additionally, there was an awful lot of repetition. Observations that were insightful or interesting the first time were vaguely irritating the third time. Also, light years measure distance, not time.

Well done, Random House (USA) and Simon and Schuster (Thompson Walker’s former employer…) – not for the editing, but for the marketing! Or well done to the agent(s) that created the hype that led to a million-dollar advance in the first place. You have me really torn with this book. On the one hand, The Age of Miracles without a doubt promises more than it can deliver. It seems like the attempt to make a dull growing-up tale more interesting by plonking it into an Armageddon-type situation. And yet, in one key way, it succeeds in fulfilling exactly what I am looking for in a book: it makes you love life just that little bit more than before.

Three stars.

Lauren

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