There’s a reason I haven’t read Dune yet. My late friend, who would’ve been 36 today, used to say he was jealous of my Dune ignorance because it meant I still had that first time read ahead of me.
But there’s no need to keep all the good stuff on reserve. I was so excited to read Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles that I waited almost an entire year to crack it open. You only get that one first read with any book, and I had a feeling I’d really enjoy this one.
Everything in Julia’s life changes when she wakes up one Saturday and learns the world itself has changed. The Earth’s rotation has slowed beyond the 24-hour day and will likely continue to slow. This is bad news, but no one knows for sure how bad. For now, life is to continue as usual. Kids are to go to school when they’re told to and not worry about the birds dropping from the sky.
Julia is in middle school, the age of miracles, when boys discover the joys of snapping girls’ bra straps and girls begin to blossom into beauties. At least some do. With her best friend moving away and her secret crush on the verge of becoming something more, she has enough to worry about. Now gravity is changing, too, and things in motion are no longer staying in motion.
Nature isn’t the only thing coming undone. Julia’s grandfather, having long outlived his friends and love, encourages her to take what she wants from his house.
…he’d grown eager to hand off his things, as if the weight of his possessions kept him tethered to this earth and, by giving them away, he could snip those strings.
Julia finds comfort in beauty, but beauty is getting difficult to come by. As the light of a day exceeds 24 hours, people begin to break off into one of two groups. Most abide by the government’s decision to go back to operating on a 24-hour cycle, which means some “days” pass in entire darkness and some “nights” come and go with the sun shining bright. The other smaller group, real-timers, disregard the clock and choose to live in sync with the planet.
Tension between the groups escalates as rotation continues to slow. People stock pile food, periodic panics drive shortages, and extreme temperatures proceed to kill plant and animal species. As a reader, you’re watching a global disaster unfold in slow motion juxtaposed with a classic coming of age story.
Meanwhile, the oceans were shifting, the Gulf Stream was slowing, and Gabby shaved her head.
Seeing events unfold through the lens of a young girl is what makes this book so much more than just a creative premise. Julia’s self-awareness and her very realistic response to possibly witnessing the end of the world drew me in. I read this one fast and mostly liked it. Read it slow and you may find it depressing. By the last page, I was ready for it to end. My only question is why is it categorized as fiction rather than YA?
I recommend The Age of Miracles for a thoughtful change of pace, and perhaps a trip back to what it felt like to be half child and “half in love”. With a slice of life tone, it’s a fun story in a we’re-all-screwed kind of way.
Check out a few other reviews, but don’t wait a whole year to read it if you’re curious.