Monthly Archives: February 2013

1) The Age of Miracles

By: Karen Thompson Walker

Date Finished: 02.02.13

by Karen Thompson Walker

“I should have known by then that it’s never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass; it’s the ones you don’t expect at all.”

Julia is an only child living in the suburbs in Southern California.  She’s a shy sixth grader, but mostly happy with her place in life.  Under normal circumstances, this would be a time of rapid changes for her age group, but the whole world is thrown into disarray when the news breaks that the rotation of the earth has slowed.  Extra minutes are pouring into each day and no one knows why it’s happening or if it will stop.  The slowing brings massive environmental and emotional changes as the world’s population tries to adjust to a planet where all certainties have disintegrated.  But this apocalypse is a slow one and so life carries on with school and soccer practice and the pursuit of normalcy.

The storytelling is impeccable as an adult Julia looks back on her childhood in a memoir-like style.  In a subtle way, she seeks to unravel which parts of her childhood were impacted by the slowing and what might have been a normal part of growing up.  By the grace of hindsight, the audience gets to enjoy little gems sprinkled throughout such as, “that was the last grape I ever tasted” among other should-be commonplace moments in Julia’s life.  Retrospection also afforded Walker the chance to write the BEST foreshadowing.  If you need proof, take these lines buried in the midst of a seemingly simple scene:

My father was at work — or so he said — but he planned to meet my mother at the party.  We were driving a silver station wagon, although the police report would later describe it as blue.

“What’s your New Year’s resolution?” my mother asked me as we passed the racetrack.

It’s still a page or so incident requiring a police report occurs.  Amazing.

Though I’m still not a fan of first-person, Walker makes excellent use of that point of view, utilizing the word “our” as much as possible to drive home the global impact of the disaster.  There is a remarkable precision to the language that makes every word feel important.  She tends to underplay a situation at first so that the crux of the scene hits with a deeper impact.  In short, The Age of Miracles is a fascinating concept in the hands of a master storyteller.

(Reading tip: Read this when you have free time — not when you’re waiting for something to happen.  Your sense of time will slow down with this one.)

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me