Karen Thompson Walker: The Age of Miracles (review)

Sometimes on white nights, as the sunlight crept in beneath my curtains, I tried to recall what it felt like to sleep in sync with the sun. How strange and peaceful it sounded to dream every night in the dark. (p. 237)

age of miraclesWhat would happen if the world started to slow so that the days slowly grew longer, first by only a few minutes, but then by hours – and the days just continued growing as the earth slows down?

Well, at first it might sound absolutely wonderful. Who hasn’t dreamt of adding a few extra hours to the day, hours that could be spent reading some of the many, many books on my to-read list and wish-list!

But when the days just keep growing longer, it has huge influences on many things. The birds start dying, the whales beach themselves and die, the crops can’t live and grow with the prolonged periods of light – and especially dark. And of course, the people are feeling it too. If the sun shines for 72 hours, how do you cope?

For Julia and her parents, their day to day life is hugely changed after the earth slowed. Of course, they are growing scared and insecure because the future is suddenly unknown and life as they know it, have changed completely. And their family unit as well as Julia’s friendships are threatened. But – and this is definitely one of the book’s strengths – Julia questions how much of the changes are caused by this disaster and how much is caused just by normal human life, always changing.

The book is told from Julia’s point of view which gives it an interesting dimension. Because, yes, Julia is worried about what’s happening and wonders why her father works so much, but she worries even more about the cute boy in school and about her best friend having to go away. Which of course makes perfect sense for a teenager to care about these things, worry about being teased by the others and generally care more about these everyday aspects of life than about the bigger issues.

What’s interesting about this type of dystopia is, that we never get an explanation about why the earth slowed. We’re just told it has, that the days keep getting longer and longer and that people are struggling to cope, that conflicts between those who want to keep living in 24 hour days and those who want to live in accordance with the sun are erupting – but no explanation. The question is: do we need such an explanation?  For parts of the book, I really wanted to know. But then I realized that that’s not important. The important thing is how people react, how easily we turn on each other when we are scared and see others as being different – and that life goes on, no matter what. That even though the world is slowly grinding to a halt, life is still being lived.

And I guess that is what is fascinated about such books. How we the people react and how even such drastic events in some ways get old and the more pressing things of every day life becomes more important – especially when you are a teenager. I also really liked how she showed how different people tackled the event and how the dominant faction, the  ones continuing to live 24-hour-days, started persecuting the ones trying to live their days as the sun dictated.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I thought the premise was extremely promising and that the novel for the most parts delivered. It’s not necessarily a novel that stays with you after you finish it but it is a fascinating idea – and an extremely capable debut novel.

  • Title: The Age of Miracles
  • Author: Karen Thompson Walker
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 373 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

4 thoughts on “Karen Thompson Walker: The Age of Miracles (review)

  1. I liked this book too – but didn’t fall in love with it. I think I liked the “idea” of the book, more than the book itself. It didn’t bother me that the “why” wasn’t given, because it felt like they were going through the change, trying to figure out what was happening – and that takes decades to figure out – if at all. I didn’t get some of the reactions though – why was “clock time” vs. “real time” a big deal? It just didn’t come across as something that should be important.

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