A Coming-of-Age Unlike Any Other: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Remember middle school? There were few things in life that mattered more than who your best friend was and on whom you had a crush. These two facts were what made your world go 'round. But what if, suddenly – and then slowly – the world stopped going around? What if the earth started rotating on its axis slower and slower while you continued through the routines that any typical pre-adolescent should be going through? Welcome to Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles.
As the world slows, the environment is affected. As gravity shifts, birds drop from the sky and the days grow longer. Ocean tides change, turning once-majestic waterfront properties into the homes of sea anemone and starfish. The government takes action, mandating that all people stick to what comes to be known as “clock time.” No matter what the sun or moon are doing in the sky, clock-timers stick to the hour displayed, making their way to work or school blanketed by a black-velvet sky; desperately trying to sleep through sun-soaked nights. And then, of course, there are the rebels, the “real-timers” whose days are dictated by the rising and setting of the sun.
At the center of the novel is Julia, eleven years old and worried only about eleven-year-old things. On the Monday morning following the weekend where the earth began its slowing (at the rate of approximately six minutes per day), her best friend, Hanna, has fled to Utah; her skateboard-riding crush, Seth, still doesn’t appear to know she exists; and Daryl, the bad-ass new kid, the troublemaker, does the unthinkable: He pulls Julia’s shirt up over her head to reveal that – “Gross! Julia’s not wearing a bra!” And as quickly as Walker had pulled our concerns and our imaginations to the fate of an entire world, she just as quickly brings us spinning back toward one tiny painful pinpointed moment in time. Suddenly, we spin on our own axis: The seemingly small becomes life-shaking and the changing universe slips to the background.
Walker transplants us to that post-childhood, pre-teenage era of naïve angst and uncertainty, to that time before we could really grasp the bigger picture, and by presenting it against a backdrop of an event both cataclysmic and catalystic, we can so clearly see from our reader’s perch above it all just how much everything matters – or doesn’t. There are metaphors both clear and convoluted, and a seemingly certain impending fate for all of Walker’s characters, who still, in spite of doom’s breath on the backs of their necks, carry on with the necessities of life. It’s a book into which you’ll likely fall, remain lost for days, and come out on the other side, thinking, for hours – maybe days – after, “Well, what if?” And you’ll never take a sunrise or sunset for granted again.