Rating: 3/5 stars.
The Age of Miracles details eleven-year-old Julia’s coming of age in a California suburb amidst the decline of the earth. The planet spins slower and slower, leading to gravity sickness, shortages of energy, dead birds, and more. In the middle of the chaos Julia comes to terms with the imperfections of her parents, the pains of an awkward adolescence, and her feelings for Seth Moreno, the boy down the street.
Karen Thompson Walker does not focus so much on the science behind the earth’s slowing or the slowing’s disastrous consequences. She fixates her prowess on Julia’s voice, the driving force that kept me engaged for 269 pages. Her tone bleeds hues of melancholy, nostalgia, and curious longing – every emotion she felt, whether it was ostracization, loneliness, or romantic attraction, struck true. Here’s a passage from the book:
“What I understood so far about this life was that there were the bullies and the bullied, the hunters and the hunted, the strong and the stronger and the weak, and so far I’d never fallen into any group – I was one of the rest, a quiet girl with an average face, one in the harmless and unharmed crowd. But it seemed all at once that this balance had shifted. A mean thought passed through my mind: I didn’t belong in this position; it should have been one of the uglier girls, Diane or Teresa or Jill. Or Rachel. Where was Rachel? She was the nerdiest one among us.”
But as a first semester aspiring English major, I’ve learned to always ask: so what? Why does this matter? When it comes to The Age of Miracles, I’m not so sure. Not only was the fate of the earth never explained, but Walker failed to resolve much at all in regard to Julia’s relationships and her overall growing up. This novel serves as a thoughtful, introspective into a young girl’s life but not a wholly satisfying portrait.
A quick book I would recommend to fans of quiet, slow-moving, and reflective novels. Somewhat like a mixture of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but with much less drama and brutality.