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The Age of Miracles: A Novel Paperback – January 15, 2013
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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
“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)
About the Author
Karen Thompson Walker is the author of The Age of Miracles, which was a New York Times bestseller. She was born and raised in San Diego and is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she wrote The Age of Miracles in the mornings before work--sometimes while riding the subway. She currently lives in Iowa with her husband.
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This wasn't a post-apocalyptic novel. It was more of a mid-apocalypse novel, which made it that much more fascinating. As a reader, you are there for the first "oh, I'm sure this will all blow over and we'll have a good laugh at those who overreacted" reactions. Then you get to watch everything change, one seemingly small impact at a time.
Even better, it was told from the perspective of a thoughtful but realistically self-centered 12-year old girl. She is unpopular and overlooked, but she shows this without wallowing in melodramatic self-pity. (Well, okay, maybe there is the occasional "Maybe loneliness was imprinted in my genes, lying dormant for years but now coming into full bloom." but I will allow it.)
The earth slows down. Just a little, a few minutes, at first. Then hours. Until "a day" runs on for days. Until birds fall out of the sky, and whales beach themselves, and the Northern Lights show up around the equator. "Only later did we discover that the solar storm had wiped out the cell phone satellites. A million desperate calls flew into space that day but landed nowhere."
This is YA, but like all good YA, you don't know it. "This was middle school, the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove. Our first flaws were emerging, but they were being corrected."
I loved it. One of those books so realistic that real life starts to feel surreal. A book to make you appreciate the sun rising and setting as it should.
With that premise and the bizarre effects caused by such a thing--all plant life dying, super radiation from the sun, a shifting magnetic shield--the main story is about 11-year-old Julia who is at that most awkward and painful of ages: sixth grade. This is the story of Julia making friends, losing friends and falling in love as only a middle schooler can.
It is the age of miracles--when the boy does notice you, when you figure out who you really are and you learn what friendship really means. But this is no ordinary coming of age for Julia, since she is living in a time when life as we know it on Earth is irreparably changing in ways no one ever anticipated.
The writing is excellent, but even more important is that Walker made me suspend all rational, scientific thought to believe the impossible could happen--at least in this terrific story.
This book is a slow burn. Even though its about Catastrophes (both global and personal) and the surviving of them, don't look for any last minute heroics or scientific breakthroughs-- this is all about the ways we survive on a day to day basis, slowly adjusting to the terrible things around us.
Julia lives in Southern California, so she's no stranger to the ways the Earth can shake things up. But even Julia and her family aren't ready for the gradual slowing of the rotation of the Earth, and the lengthening days and nights, off-balance magnetic fields, and dying birds.
The world's governments deal with this catastrophe piecemeal, reacting with "clock time" when the days lengthen too far, giving up on the astronauts trapped in the space station, and turning off all nonessential power so that dwindling energy can be used for UV lamps to grow food.
Meanwhile, Julia is dealing with personal catastrophes of her own in the same, slow-reacting way. She's lost her best friend to Mormon retreat, her grandfather's disappeared, and her parents are falling away from each other. And there's this boy, Seth, she keeps blurting out awkward things to.
For me, the slow death of society as we know it was tied up with the emotional and social awkwardness of Julila's personality. All the catastrophes play out in a slow, sad, downward spiral. It's the small details of Julia's mother buying emergency peanut butter, and 'real timers' abandoning society for supposed Utopias in the desert, and the social perils of waiting for the school bus in the dark that layer together a delicious, slice-of-near future-dystopia life for the reader to enjoy.
It doesn't quite make the 5th star for me because the pace slowed down just a bit too much for me sometimes, and I felt like the promise of several characters (and their ultimate fates) were never quite fully fulfilled or explained.
Still, my 6th grader said she enjoyed the book as well. (Romancey bits are quite tame). For a literary-flavored near future meditation on weathering emotional and global catastrophes, this is your book.