What We’re Reading: The Age of Miracles
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House, June 2012).
This week, we read Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles. It has been heralded far and wide as the book of the summer, and we have to say, we agree. So much so that we’re co-presenting a reading with Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis featuring Walker next Thursday night, 7:30 pm. And it doesn’t stop there: we also interviewed Walker about her writing process, the novel, and more, so keep your eyes glued here for that interview on Tuesday.
The novel’s narrator, 12-year-old Julia, is going about her pre-teen life when she and the world wake up one day to the news that the earth’s rotation is slowing, and therefore creating gradually longer days (and nights). The longer the days grow, the greater the effects on the earth’s ecosystems, creating difficulties with growing crops, and, later, introducing perils such as radiation. Humans find ways to adapt, both drastic and subtle. Meanwhile, Julia acts on her first crush, experiences the ups and downs of tween-friendships, death, and the marital turbulence of her parents. Some things don’t change, or maybe it’s just that change is the constant. Especially when the world is spinning out of control, quite literally.
Walker grounds this unbelievable tale with the recognizable story of adolescence. The coming of age story nestled in these unlikely circumstances make this a uniquely harrowing, yet familiar experience, and make the drastic future easier to swallow. The dire situation that the world finds itself in takes cues from real, current issues, such as global warming, and in that way, makes pointed and unsettling commentary on our planet today and what our future could hold.
Some of the story’s themes remind me of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, with its futuristic climate and apocalyptic changes brought on by the actions of humans (well, possibly brought on in this case; Walker leaves the cause of the “slowing” ambiguous). It’s a quick read (which does not mean a bad read), partly in thanks to Walker’s clean technique (she is a former editor at Simon & Schuster), yet leaves one with plenty to ponder. It’s just the perfect summer read: entertaining, other-wordly, and escapist, led by an endearing narrator.
What is your recommendation for a good ol’ summer read? What futuristic/apocalyptic books do you have on your radar?