BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Age of Miracles’ is a miracle itself

Book Review | “The Age of Miracles”

Every so often, a novel comes along that so utterly transcends its genre that it almost becomes a genre unto itself. So it is with Karen Thompson Walker’s debut work, “The Age of Miracles.”

Ostensibly a science fiction tale, the story deals with an Earth whose rotation has, for unexplained reasons, begun to slow. With that slowing comes longer days, longer nights, stronger gravitational forces, earthquakes, storms, etc.

The story’s been told a thousand times in a thousand ways, but never like this. The events of this slowly evolving apocalypse are as seen through the eyes of Julia, a young girl, just shy of 12 years old.

Rather than falling back on Hollywood-ized explosions and grandiose scenes of continents sliding dramatically into the sea, Walker presents us with an implacable, unstoppable and — most likely — ultimately terminal situation that creeps forward like an advancing glacier, inch by agonizing inch. It is the way in which the books characters deal with this fatalistic scenario that makes it almost impossible to put down.

As the days grow longer and hotter, the nights longer and colder, as solar radiation slowly eradicates the world’s flora, as the birds die, followed in suit by other species, as the power grids fail and society inexorably crumbles, Julia and the rest of the world begin to realize there is no “out” — there will be no sudden reprieve, no galactic pardon from on high.

“The Age of Miracles” speaks to both the strengths and foibles of the human spirit with a quiet authority and dignity rarely seen in modern literature. Walker manages to see inside her characters and inform them with a grace and power more lifelike than life itself.

This is as close to perfect as a first novel gets. Heartbreaking, hopeful and inspired. “The Age of Miracles” more than earns a five-star rating.

 

Rating: 5 stars

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