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The miracle is life itself,
This review is from: The Age of Miracles: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Karen Thompson Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES is an extraordinary novel about a young girl struggling with the inevitable changes in her life. Eleven-year-old Julia is going through the same things all of us do as we grow up - her parents are confusing and contradictory, her best friend seems to have forgotten she's alive, and the boy she's had a crush on since forever is as inconstant as the moon (as Shakespeare would say!), acting like her friend one day and a complete stranger the next. Add to all this the changes in her body, the drama at the bus stop, and new challenges at school, and you get a real glimpse into what it's like for a girl on the edge of maturity. Walker's insight into female coming-of-age is remarkable.
And then, on top of it all, there's the novel's setting - THE AGE OF MIRACLES takes place during a genuine catastrophe of astronomical proportions. For some inexplicable reason, the Earth's rotation has begun to slow down, meaning the length of the day is increasing little by little until the periods of darkness and light are so long that it takes multiple twenty-four hour periods just to see the sun rise. The ramifications of this are profound, both on the people in Walker's world and on the world itself. When it's revealed that the Earth's magnetic field has shifted, it becomes very clear that things will never be the way they once were.
The best part of THE AGE OF MIRACLES is Julia's story, and only a small part of that story has to do with the so-called "slowing" of the Earth's rotation. In a way, the science-fiction aspect of the novel is merely a backdrop to the very real and identifiable coming-of-age story. Since the novel is narrated by sixth-grader Julia, we never get any real information on the scientific basis of the "slowing" or the physics of its implications. In structure, the novel reminded me of the recent film ANOTHER EARTH, which was ostensibly about the discovery of a new planet that was a mirror image of our Earth, but was really the story of how one young woman came to terms with guilt. Like the film, AGE OF MIRACLES is ostensibly about the changes our planet must face as its rotation continually slows, but it's really about the changes a young girl must face as she grows up in this ever-changing world.
Walker's thesis is that we can't predict what the future will bring - try as we might to prepare for disaster, things will happen that are unexpected and uncontrollable. Julia's mother hoards canned food, people argue about whether to live "by the clock" or by the rising and setting of the sun, neighbors turn against each other, and the rotation of the Earth continues to slow. And Julia continues to grow up. THE AGE OF MIRACLES is a beautifully written novel that offers a very real insight into the changes we all experience as we live our lives. The miracle is that in spite of everything, we keep on living. I recommend THE AGE OF MIRACLES without reservation. It is a novel you will not soon forget.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 17, 2012 11:23:10 AM PDT
mike t says:
Posted on Jul 1, 2012 10:48:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 1, 2012 10:51:38 AM PDT
If you define miracles as: "effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause" (Dictionary.com), the book takes on a very different tone than you have implied, but your thesis still remains solid. I don't think the miracle is life itself, as you posit, but rather the darker definition as I quoted above. The book struck me more as a dying of the world, dying of youth, dying of innocence--very dark--as told by a naive and innocent, tender young girl forced to make sense of it all. I agree it is her story that is the best part, but my complaint with Walker's "insight into female coming-of-age" being "remarkable" is that an adult woman writing from the perspective of a very young girl should demonstrate remarkable insight, and in fact, should be much much less aware than Walker's voice of Julia. Not being flippant, really quite serious, being faced with this scenario of events... the "miracle" might have been that they all just didn't off themselves.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2012 8:52:37 AM PDT
PageEater, I'm not sure that the "supernatural cause" element of your proposed definition of miracles is what the author had in mind. If anything, "miracle" in the novel seems to suggest randomness, and our ability to cope with it.
I do get your darker reading, especially when it comes to the ending.
Thanks for your comment, PageEater.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 8:31:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 3, 2012 8:34:38 AM PDT
Agreed-I'm not absolutely sure either, but when I saw that definition I had to re-evaluate the obvious (the cliche the "miracle of life") and thought the alternative definition put the book into a whole different light, one that did make more sense to me. The title and the body of the book are so incongruent in many ways. The regret filled voice that looks back at the story did not sound like a person that was moved by the miracle of life! I know only a few authors, but they tell me that they always write with meanings that mainstream readers seem to pass over, taking the common and comfortable path through the read insterad of catching the true meanings. It's good to look at a book with an outside the box approach. There is often more meaning than what is obvious. It all makes reading a shared and persoanl experience. Thank you for your reply!
Posted on Aug 2, 2012 1:04:06 AM PDT
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