Monday, March 26, 2012

The Age of Miracles

(coming June 26, 2012)

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

Thursday my Random House rep handed me The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, saying not only that Random House expects it to be really big, but it'll be the book he'll still be pushing ten years from now because it's just that good. I was intrigued. I went straight home & started reading it (I should probably mention I'm halfway through A Clash of Kings & was eager to take a little break). I can't say I read it in one sitting, but in the times I was either at work or otherwise not reading, I was constantly thinking about it. I finished it last night, wiping away torrents of tears.

One Saturday morning, 11-year-old Julia & her family wake to discover the news that the world's rotation is inexplicably slowing. Minutes are added to the day, then hours, until eventually the sun stays up for a week at a time before plunging into a week-long night. The story is about how Julia copes with the changes in her family & friends, the perils of middle school & the beauty of first love, as the world disintegrates around her.

I'm not sure exactly why I loved this book as much as I did. Walker is a beautiful writer; I was underlining memorable passages left & right. The concept is super cool & she portrays it in a very human - not to mention terrifying - way. But more than that, I think it's the spot-on way she captures the pain, sadness, & awkwardness of being an unpopular middle-school girl. It hit seriously close to home. Walker had to have been one of us, too; she never would've known, otherwise. But she gets it. This book has a heart that so many books these days don't have; it mainly resides in its characters - Julia, her mother & father, her neighbors, her grandfather, her school friends, her crush.

If the scientific aspect of the novel (the repercussions of the slowing of the earth's rotation) is what most draws you to read the novel, I might not recommend the book so strongly. I was constantly having to suspend my disbelief because I'd ask a question regarding the environment, animal & plant life, the world's temperature, what was happening at the poles, the effects of the slowing on the human body, etc., that couldn't be answered, or because Walker's theory wasn't satisfactory to me.

But if you're willing to suspend your disbelief & focus on the novel for what it is - a realistic picture of how relationships flourish or crumble in the face of uncertainty & tragedy - then I think you'll love this book. I rarely am so deeply affected by a story. It's one of those books that leaves you wandering aimlessly after you turn the final page. You're so numb from the experience that all you can do is keep reading - you read the acknowledgements, the jacket copy, the back cover blurbs, you reread the last chapter two or three times, all because you aren't ready to pull yourself out of the world. These are my most memorable reading experiences, & are almost always coupled with uncontrollable sobbing. The Age of Miracles falls into company with Beatrice & Virgil, The Amber Spyglass, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Peter & Wendy, Jude the Obscure, & a precious few others.

I was worried my Random House rep had oversold the novel, but he absolutely didn't. This book will take up a special place on my shelf, to be reread many times. Three months from today, seriously, pick up this book. 

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