I just finished reading The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and to say I am baffled by my feelings on this novel would be an understatement. The story itself is even baffling for the narrator, Julia, who is an 11-year old girl describing the events that occur as the world around her is coming to an end, literally. They call it the slowing as the Earth begins to turn off course and before everyone knows it, days are turning into long stretches of sunlight or darkness, and there is a sort of battle between the “clock-timers” and the “real-timers” which caused people who might have been friends at one time to turn on each other. The thing is, although it was a battle of sorts because the “real-timers” were essentially rebelling against what the government suggested everyone do, there wasn’t much action to really describe it as such. Yes, there were thefts and vandalism going on around the neighborhood but since the story was only seen through Julia’s eyes, nothing was ever high impact. It sounds like that might be boring and that given her age it may have been a work of fiction for a younger crowd but it wasn’t. Not in my opinion, anyway. This book was smart, really smart, and incredibly well written. Karen Thompson Walker impressed me with the clear imagery she put into Julia’s thoughts and words. While I was hoping for more overall, I am still left content with the ending either way. The story is short, a mere 269 pages, and I started it last night, so it’s definitely a quick read. I found it sad and ominous most of the time and a few occasions I really wanted Julia to shut up, but ultimately, I felt empathy for her. For a girl of only eleven years old, she had to deal with more than most her age have dealt with and she did it with a calm, and almost curious demeanor.
The only thing that I will comment further on is that in most of the reviews I’ve read about this book, people have praised the author for her incredible writing ability but have attacked her lack of knowledge as far as the scientific facts are concerned, which are peppered throughout the entire story. The thing that strikes me as odd by these statements is that how can we expect an eleven year old girl to be more scientific in her prose? The writer is descriptive of Julia’s surroundings and the goings on of her life because that is how a story is written, however, she is vague about the actual scientific facts that could or should be involved most likely in an “end of the world” scenario because it would, most likely, seem completely unrealistic of Julia to know any of those facts. She is not a scientist, she is a child. Whether the Earth could possibly do the things that it did in this story or not, whether snow could fall in a balmy summer California city or not, whether any of it could be plausible is ultimately not the point. The point is that it is science fiction and it should be taken as such. That would be like someone downplaying Jurassic Park because it just doesn’t seem realistic, and they’d be absolutely right, because it is fiction. My rating is 5 out of 5 stars for Walker’s liberal use of imagination and beautiful writing, especially given that this is her first work. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend that you do and if you have read it, what did you think?