on January 9, 2013
With a title like "Age of Miracles" you do expect a miracle to show up somewhere, but this novel grinds through the slow and unrelenting end of the world from the viewpoint of a 12 year old to the unsurprising end. Or maybe I should say surprising end, as I expected a miracle somehow to give us a satisfying ending. Instead the "miracle" is that the girl finds a boyfriend for a few months who leaves and is never heard from again. This book gave me bad dreams while reading it and worse dreams when I read the ending, which was one short chapter of "I'm still alive but going to die soon and I am still miserable." Where is the fight? The excitement? The charge that makes a book a heroic story? If you want a book to support your misery, read this. If you want upliftment, don't.
on July 7, 2013
Have you ever read something so beautiful that you wish more than anything that it was a human so you could hug it for a long time? That's how I felt the entire time I read Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. This may be some of the most well-crafted prose I've read in quite a while, with each word dripping with poetic mastery. Every sentence felt like it should be inspiration to write in some girl's scrapbook or something of the sort. Most of my way through the book was such a free experience, like I was in a haze, and by the end of the book, I barely felt like I had been reading for long at all. So, kudos to Walker for knowing how to write the perfect sentences.
However, that may also be part of the book's downfall. I often found myself wishing for more story, and while it was beautiful and the premise captivating, many of the chapters were "fluff." The book is not a long novel by any means, coming to around 270 pages. It wasn't until halfway through, though, that I began to feel the story actually grab onto something and the novel picked up quite a bit. It's unfortunate that the first half of the book couldn't have tapped into that storytelling. It's actually in that section of the book that catastrophe occurs, but I felt no sense of urgency or crisis from the writing. Everything was so passive, and I believe the book would have benefitted greatly if Walker had been more active and thrilling in her writing.
My feelings towards the characters was like a roller coaster to say the least. At first, I enjoyed our main character, Julia. She was calm and mature for an eleven year old, but after a while, I began to think she was too reserved to be the main protagonist. She never stepped out and did anything noteworthy at first, and as a star of the book, Walker really should have given her more action. Don't worry, though. I liked her by the end. It was actually astonishing how many characters I despised but ending liking them by the last page. The mother was a worrier, but she was always a great mother (and reminded me quite a bit of my own mother!). I swore I would never like the father, but as things turned for the worse, his character seemed to do the exact opposite, so I gave in and appreciated him. And Seth. I was so happy for the friendship that blossomed there. Julia and Seth together always made my heart happy.
Finally, it's worth mentioning the science of the book. I must admit, science isn't my forte, so I rarely read hardcore science fiction books because they mostly confuse me. I know enough science, however, to know that there were quite a few off things about this book. Walker gave this book a great premise, and I'll give her credit for keeping me up at night thinking what Earth would be like if it actually did slow down. Her error, though, is that she never goes into full detail with anything scientific. There's no explanation for anything, and a lot of times, it felt as if she didn't want to do the research to see what the actual consequence would be for such a catastrophe, so she just wrapped it up by saying, "The scientist still don't know the cause for..." I may not be scientific, but I know enough to realize the sloppiness to that approach.
Overall, while it's very beautiful in both aesthetics and literature, Walker missed an opportunity with this book. The book isn't long, so there was plenty of room to open the story and scientific explanations a bit more. Combined with the great prose, the book would have been an absolute showstopper. Instead, I can appreciate the end result and would recommend it to others, but it's still always going to leave me wanting more.
on October 13, 2013
I really hate it when a book carries me along only for me to be thoroughly unsatisfied when I reach the end. Age of Miracles offered a great set up and an integrating premises that I thought would result in a great plot. However, in the end it was more of a character study than anything else (I should say characters study). The earth's rotation slowed resulting in long days and nights. This was obviously a world-wide problem of epic proportions but the author never took us out of the the little neighborhood (or head) of a young girl narrator. The story was really about the relationships she had with her parents and friends, and her first love, a boy named Seth. The story was beautifully told, but in my opinion it could have been so much more. I think most of my discontentment was caused by the title, "The Age of Miracles." I thought the word "age" meant age as in the age of Aquarius. this lead me to expect an epic story. Only after reading the book did I realize it probably refers to the age of the young girl telling the story. Also, there were no miracles that I could see, only slow death. Again, the writing was superb. It was the plot that lacked substance for me.
on September 4, 2015
This is a beautifully written book with a dystopian aspect. The story is slow moving with numerous sub plots. YA dystopia/sci-fi is not my favorite genre, but I read along. The author was coming to town and I was determined to adjust my reading bias before the lecture. That accomplished, I found this to be a very interesting, enjoyable, coming of age book.
on August 6, 2016
I just finished this book and I feel like this feeling will stick with me for a very long time. A feeling of hopeful normalcy, and hopeless uncertainty. In my mind I see this as a coming of age story, then a contemporary lit story, then science fiction; but the truth is that it is all of those things.
on March 19, 2014
I saw Karen Thompson Walker present a TED talk about the ideas and processes she used in writing this novel, I found the talk to be inspiring and thought provoking and really spoke to me in a way that this novel just failed to do.
I may have come into this with unreasonably high expectations, but the idea seemed ingenious to me, the idea of time slowing down and the millions of ways it would impact everyone's daily lives, the nature of fear and how it shapes individuals decision making, the nature of change, growing up, etc.
Whilst well written, I found that many of the issues I would have liked to see investigated were often glossed over or ignored, there is such a wealth of possibilities that is brought up by this theme that her failure to engage with any in a significant way was disappointing
on December 26, 2012
My bookstore friend had a book for me--"imaginative premise", she said, "I dreamt about it all night." Then the suggestion that I just might want to consider it as a read-aloud for my classes. And she was right. Even the New Yorker raved about this debut novel in their August 6 issue, saying author Karen Walker "creates lovely, low-key scenes to dramatize her premise"--and it's that premise that is so compelling. Imagine if the earth slowed on its axis, days growing longer, nights stretching on, magnetic field bending and twisting.
It was called "the slowing." The world's top scientists had no explanation, no solutions. In the beginning, all that could be done was to carry on. So eleven-year-old Julia--friendless, flat-chested, and still in so many ways a little girl--continued with the hell that was sixth grade. Her school adjusted start times by the day, trying to maintain the status quo; some neighbors slid into a new rhythm, gardening at midnight and sleeping at noon. Birds died in pairs or by dozens on lawns. Her mother began to stockpile food and suffer "the sickness": fainting, insomniac, nauseated. Weather shifted and crops withered.
Finally, when light stretched on to nearly thirty-two hours, the president announced that Americans would revert to a twenty-four hour clock. And so Julia tells us, "light would be unhooked from day, darkness unchained from night"-- clock time was enacted. Blackout curtains became an essential and sleeping pill use skyrocketed. Not everyone fell into step and "real-timers" began to slip away into the desert, building "shadow communities" that followed a circadian rhythm for this new age.
Through this chaos, Julia lives out her own age of miracles--she becomes fast friends with her crush Seth, watches her parents' love ebb and grow, and always takes in the dying beauty around her. Karen Walker presents the unimaginable, the idea that the home we call Earth could come to a horrific end, through the eyes of a girl standing on the edge of promise and hope. It is Julia who just might give us a glimpse of why we are here: Though the pace of the slowing had slackened over the years, it had never stopped. The damage had been done, and we had come to suspect that we were dying. But ... we carried on. We persisted ... we told stories and we fell in love. We fought and we forgave. Some still hoped the world might right itself. Babies continued to be born.
on June 1, 2015
I found the book disturbing. I kept waiting for the miracles to happen. It was an interesting concept, days and nights getting longer on the earth slows on its' spinning. (Sorry if I gave it away.) What disturbed me the most was that the writer incorporated present day events into the book, which is not a bad thing per say, but that made me think that these type of things are happening now and no one is telling us the truth. It started to make me very paranoid to the point when when I saw a commercial for blind people to take a drug to get their circadian rhythm back on track, I thought, why are they pushing this drug? Blind people don't watch tv. What are they trying to tell us??? I read Steven King. I like all sorts of books, but this one freaked me out.
on June 2, 2016
A dystopian future , that could in reality, happen . A work of art, raw, and thoughtfully told.
I gave it 4 stars because , I often thought the devastation happening , wasn't altering other aspects of goods, and manufacturing of goods, it wasn't a back story so it was a loose end...really great original story, too real and very plays.
on January 15, 2013
Most books I read a book serve as a form of escapism, a little welcome holiday from life.
But some books get inside your head, altering how you see your own life, even as you are reading them. Changing your perspective on the real world.
The Age of Miracles is one of those books. The Da Vinci COde had a little of the same effect - I never looked at his paintings in the same way again. But the Age of Miracles did it better. Without spoiling anything, I can say that the book begins with the mass-realisation that the earth's spin is slowing down. The phenomenon is termed The Slowing. I read the book in half a week, and found myself nervously watching the skies more than once over those few days. Was it me, or was the sunsetting very late? Did the moon look particularly orange and large, or did it always look like that at this time of year? Hmmmm.......
The premise behind the book is fantastic. A quarter of the way through, I was sure this would be a 5-star rating (only my second on Goodreads). The writing is great. The main character, being an 11-year-old girl, is the perfect heroine, insofar as the writer can never get TOO scientific, which suits the reader. There is enough science here to deal with, but it never gets annoyingly-complicated.
But I had one major gripe with the book. A third of the way through, I was waiting for the main plot to start. Two-thirds of the way through, I was still waiting. And at the end, it became apparent that there was to be no main story-line, apart from The Slowing, and how it effected everyone and everything over the course of a year. More of a memoir, than a novel.
Now, perhaps this was what the author intended. Maybe she thought that The Slowing was story enough in itself. And maybe she was right. I still was excited to get back to the book every night, and I enjoyed almost every part of it.
But there was the odd time where I felt a little patronised (for example, the effect on the tides was repeatedly explained, as if the reader mightn't have grasped it the first time) and most chapters began with a discription of some new effect The Slowing was having, all of which was interesting, but became a little repetitive. Had there been another narrative, a main storyline running through the book, I think The Miracle of Ages would have been a 5 star rating.
But even as it is, I would highly recommend it, especially to anyone with an interest in science or the environment. A great read.