The Age of Miracles


The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson WalkerFull Title: The Age of Miracles: A Novel
Author:
Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Random House (2012)
Number of Pages: 288
How long it took me to read: 5 days
Where I got this book: public library
ISBN: 978-0-8129-9297-7

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Like a Moth to a Flame

I read about this book in Entertainment Weekly. I actually skipped over the review at first (I wasn’t really interested in yet another apocalyptic story), but then something drew me back. That pretty much sums up my experience of the book, as you’ll see from my review.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flue and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different—unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.” (p.29)

4. “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. And how quiet that thick desert darkness must have been with only the stars to light the land.” (p.174)

3. “ ‘What if this is how we die?’ whispered Seth. He sounded serious. He did not seem afraid… We were, on that day, no different from the ancients, terrified of our own big sky.” (p.52)

2. “How quaint the old twenty-four-hour clock began to look to our eyes, how impossibly clean-cut, with its twin sets of twelve, as neat as walnut shells. How had we believed, we wondered, in such simplistic things?” (p.70)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “It still amazes me how little we really knew. We had rockets and satellites and nanotechnology…We could manufacture skin, clone sheep. We could make a dead man’s heart pump blood through the body of a stranger…We performed all sorts of miracles: We could make the blind see and the deaf hear…At the time of the slowing, stem cell researchers were on the verge of healing paralysis—surely the lame soon would have walked. And yet, the unknown still outweighed the known. We never determined the cause of the slowing. The source of our suffering remained forever mysterious.” (p.266)

New Words

Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

New Word: stud (noun)

Definition (Source: The Free Dictionary): an upright post in the framework of a wall for supporting sheets of lath, wallboard, or similar material
Synonyms: scantling
Origins: from Middle English ‘stode’; from Old English ‘studu’
As in: “Some were just wooden frames naked of dry-wall and stucco, the studs beginning to weather in the hot, dry air.” (p.209)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

The Age of Miracles isn’t that great. From the review I read, I thought it was going to be an exceptional book but, so far, it just isn’t. The story is told by Julia at an undetermined age, looking back at this time in her life when she’s eleven and the world—literally—changes. The writing is decent, the story unfolds matter-of-factly, and the characters are propelled forward in the plot, but they aren’t examined in depth. I’m confused about the book’s intended audience—it doesn’t strike me as adult reading, but I’m pretty sure it’s not being marketed to young adults. I guess it’s for whomever. Thing is, I’ve read other books with young protagonists as well as books aimed at younger readers that were packed with more meat and more heart than The Age of Miracles.”

“It may not be great literature but I’ll admit, there’s something about this book—something riveting. Every so often, I have to remind myself, ‘Wait. We still have twenty-four hour days. Earth didn’t really slow down. Days are bright and nights are dark and stepping outside the house is no more dangerous than before.’ That’s the sign of a magical book, especially when it manages to take me out of my own reality while trying to convince me of a premise as giant as the world slowing its rotation. The fact that I get so caught up in Walker’s fictional world that I have to re-orient myself in the real world is probably one of her greatest feats.”

“How awesome is it that our days are so predictable? Days are bright: the sun radiating enough light for us to comfortably navigate our world, just warm enough to kiss our skin and grow our plants. Nights are cooler, dark and restful, easy to fall asleep to. And every twenty-four hours they rotate like that: day, night, light, dark, over and over and over again. Without fail. I’m in awe. This book has given me a new appreciation for the most mundane aspect of my life.”

The Age of Miracles has grown on me. The more I think about it, the deeper the book seems and the more poetic its words sound. It’s not a character-driven book, which might be partially why it seemed superficial to me at first. A book that delves into the psyche of its characters, even if the characters are dealing with ordinary issues, like family, seems to me more profound than a plot-driven book about the world ending. Of course, you can have a book that accomplishes both, but The Age of Miracles isn’t one of them. I still agree with my original assessment—I’m not a big fan of Walker’s writing style. But I do like what she has to say. The world and circumstances she’s created are realistic. The Age of Miracles makes me wonder if the same can happen to us. Unexplainable things happen all the time; Earth’s rotation can suddenly slow for no apparent reason. It could.”

6 Comments

  1. Susie Klein says:

    Great review, makes me want to find this book that won you over as you read it.

  2. esrealty says:

    Just love the way you put it together, cant wait for the next one

  3. mimi says:

    wow, reading YOUR review, it makes me look at things in a totally different realm. i was looking at it in such simplistic way, and you put a totally different spin on it. thanks for that.

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