Review: The Age of Miracles

The Age of MiraclesThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently watched a short video explaining how the invention of clocks forever altered the way we understood reality. Suddenly we could measure time in tiny, precise, and consistent units rather than relying on vague intuitions about the subtle way that light becomes dark becomes light again. The Age of Miracles reminds me that our present view of time as measurable and contained is really a human invention based on the remarkable consistency of our sun and moon. In this novel the earth begins to slow its rotation and people are left to decide whether they should measure days as they always have, or whether they should give in to the new rhythms of time that are changing as the earth’s rotation slows.

This is a gentle dystopia–not a barren post-apocalyptic landscape like The Road or a zombie infested planet like World War Z–but a subtle yet abrupt and insistent phenomenon more akin to climate change. When I shared the premise with my husband, he had all sorts of questions about how the author addressed the way this slowing rotation would affect everything from oceans to the molten lava core of our earth. The author really only faintly addresses these questions, only inasmuch as they affect the generic but likable protagonist Julia. How much does a 13 year old really know or care to know of these things? About as much as I do. Call me shallow, but I am infinitely more interested in how these shifts affect the humans on the planet’s surface than the lava at the planet’s core.

Julia is the center of this story’s gravitational pull, and I liked her. She had a dozen or so memorable insights and I’ve dog-eared the appropriate pages in my book to return to these.

I was reminded in my reading that we are entirely dependent on the predictability of our sun: without the routine patterns of day and night seeds would not grow and the basic premises that sustain life would falter. Walker reminds us by the end of the book that we should be humbled by all that we do not know and cannot make on our own. This book reminded of Job 9:7 which reminds us that these phenomenon are dependent on God, and if he wanted he could “speak to the sun and it (would) not shine.” If suddenly the things we’ve come to believe were predictable and immutable laws of the universe became unpredictable, where would that leave us? Karen Thompson Walker brings up some, but certainly not all, of the implications of such a change in this novel. But she reminds us that we cannot produce a single blade of grass without the elements of sun, rain, and soil that are so generously provided for us.

If I were 13, I’d give this 5 stars. This is the kind of book I loved as a young girl and it bears enough faint resemblance to a Madeline L’Engle novel that I know I would have eaten it right up. So, it is that thirteen year old girl in me that compelled me to read this in about 24 hours. (And yes, I managed to do that without neglecting my children! Although I *may* have gone to pick up my daughter from 4K a little earlier than strictly necessary so I could sneak in a few pages while waiting for her.) I’ve grown up a little and my tastes have changed to prefer a glass of complex wine over a straightforward cup of grape soda. But, I can still remember how this would have tasted to my thirteen year old self and I certainly recommend it.

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