Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson Walker describes puberty as nothing less than “the age of miracles”, when girls go to bed with checkerboard chests and wake up with game-show-model curves; when boys find that their voices can smolder and that the hint of sex is everywhere. This is the age when anything can happen.
And eleven-year-old Julia comes of age in a time anything truly can happen.
For reasons unknown, the days on Earth stretch longer over time. With prolonged spans of sunlight come questions: What kind of clock should people follow with an ever-changing schedule? How do they cope with shifting gravity? And how do they escape from the planet's eventual destruction when they can look to the ends of the Earth and find no place to hide?
THE AGE OF MIRACLES isn't wonderful just for its speculative sci-fi story, but because of its rare humanistic bent. Thompson Walker poses the question, If disaster threatened to strike your sleepy San Diego suburb, what would you do? And the answer is, surprisingly, you would just keep on living. Children still wait at the bus stop daily for school. Julia's grandpa spends his days obsessively categorizing his possessions. People still fall in love, get married, have babies. All in a time of uncertainty like no other.
A former Simon & Schuster editor, Thompson Walker has an eye for good prose. Note that THE AGE OF MIRACLES isn't an edge-of-your-seat book meant to be devoured in one go; it is a book meant to be savored in little bits and pieces before bed. Sometimes THE AGE OF MIRACLES lingers too long, so read it for the premise, not the plot. Read it for the characters and the sweet melancholy hope of pre-pubescence.
How much sweeter life would be if it all happened in reverse, if, after decades of disappointments, you finally arrived at an age when you had conceded nothing, when everything was possible,” Thompson Walker writes.
Indeed, THE AGE OF MIRACLES's greatest merit lies in its familiar snapshot of innocent youth—in soccer games and classroom crushes, in struggling to understand a messy world without pattern or logic.


(cross-posted from The Adroit Journal's Tumblr)

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