‘It is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different – unimagined, unprepared for, unknown…’ What if our 24-hour day grew longer, first in minutes, then in hours, until day becomes night and night becomes day? What effect would this slowing have on the world? On the birds in the sky, the whales in the sea, the astronauts in space, and on an eleven-year-old girl, grappling with emotional changes in her own life..?
One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself.
When I saw The Age of Miracles on Netgalley in March I just had to request it. Having thought about and discussed in the past how our lives would change if gravity, the magnetic poles and nature started to change, I was intrigued to see how the author had created a story around something similar.
The story is narrated in the first person by 11 year old Julia. We begin the journey at the news that the earth’s rotation has slowed on it’s axis by 56 minutes and therefore earth has gained an extra 56 minutes a day. Doesn’t sound so bad … 56 minutes. But that is only the beginning of what is to be known as ‘the slowing.’
It is a reflective account as Julia tells us it remains preserved in her memory even all these years later (which gives the reader hope that something came along that made a positive difference).
Through Julia’s eyes we not only get to experience the changes that occur on a survival level but also, very poignantly, we are taken through life with her family, her friendships and community.
There are hooks that intrigue the reader, such as the landscape still looked the same on day the news broke but not so later … you want to find out how, what changed?
It is hard for Julia to separate life as it is to how it could have been. Did everything that happen to her and her family have anything to do with ‘the slowing’ or would it have happened anyway? What directly affected everyone and what would have happened had it not occurred?
When a natural celestial event happens, everyone is totally panicked … These people are waiting for changes to start and everything is seen as a threat – everything they believe in their world is changing. They are living on the edge in an anxious state, which reflects in their actions! The ensuing chaos is exactly how we would react …
The majority of people follow Government guidelines when the decision to stay living on ‘clock time’ is announced, taking measures so that this would be possible. Interestingly, those who chose not to were seen as outsiders and life in the community was deliberately made difficult so they would move. Communities sprang up and one in particular ‘Circadia’ in the desert is glimpsed into as Julia and her family search for a missing family member.
As the earth’s rotations slows, nature starts responding. There are a couple of poignant scenes that will touch you.
Even living amongst the uncertainty and the changes that happen as the days and nights get longer and longer … life still ‘happens’ to Julia. A lot of the experiences are shared with boyfriend Seth, not all of them positive!
There are no neat ends all tied up at the end of The Age of Miracles. We don’t find out why this is happening on a scientific level as no-one knows … despite the technological/scientific knowledge in the world (hence the title!). The story for me is about survival on a practical level and how humans adapt while still living an ‘ordinary’ life. A very ‘Uranian’ experience!
The Age of Miracles is Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel. It will be interesting to see what she creates next!
I would like to thank the publishers, Random House, for approving my request on Netgalley.
You can find out more about the author on The Age of Miracles website.