Here's a little treasure I found in a Warehouse Sale one weekend :)
Here's the gravity-defying Blurby-Blurb!
“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”
Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life--the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world."
I definitely did not know what to expect when getting into this book, but it definitely took me on a journey that I was either uncertain of or was heavily confused by. But let's not this stop from reviewing it!
-ALIEN-LIKE SPOILERS! DO NOT TRESPASS BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE FASCINATED BY SPOILERS AND THINGS THAT YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN IF YOU HAD READ THE BOOK! SPOILERS!-
There is something just so chaotic and unhitched in apocalypse novels where everyone either goes completely against what you thought they'd do, or they act so normally that you're sure they are about to crack any second and kill anything that comes near.
The Age of Miracles does exactly that for me. It puts you in a somewhat realistic Apocalyptic event and gives a demonstration of what might happen in that situation. Most Apocalyptic novels now involve some supernatural event that results in our 'usually' teen aged protagonist to go and save the world or find the antidote or be the reason for everything kind of going somewhat back to normal, or even completely different for the better.
I stumbled across this book when I went to a huge Vinnies Warehouse Sale on the weekend with my mum and Aunt. While they shopped through second-hand clothes and little trinkets and glasses, I always make a beeline straight for books area that they set out. The Age of Miracles was one of the many books I bought over Friday-Saturday op shopping marathon. The only thing I knew about it was its blurb, and some reviews I checked out of it on Goodreads. It was only $3 so I couldn't really say no, could I? (Don't answer that - ever)
I got the cover as shown above (If I can, I usually use the picture of the cover that I buy)
The biggest thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It's hardcover, with the dust jacket having a hole pattern through the title that would slowly change its colour as it progressed towards the end of 'Miracles'. It's such a pretty cover, and its bright colours that contrast each other caught my eye like a Magpie.
While I liked the dust jacket, I did not like what was underneath. It was a silhouette of a girl's portrait from the side, and it's just bright orange and navy. The font on the spine was nice, but I was too taken back by the silhouette that, if I originally saw, I probably wouldn't have picked the book up or gone out of my way to read the first page.
Julia, an 11-year-old, narrates the terrible fate of the Earth as Scientists reveal that the Earth's rotation was gradually slowing down, causing days to get longer and gravity to become heavier. Society is put to the test when days go from 24 hours long, to 30, then to 40 hours, creating disturbances and confusion in simple tasks like schedules, sleep, and farming. Eventually, the longer days have psychological effects on people: a slowing-related disorder (referred to as 'the syndrome', its effects vary from person to person), crime rates hike and people purportedly become more impulsive.
Julia learns to deal with this new world with her family, her best friend Hannah, and her crush Seth.
Okay. Let me just say now, I am mormon. Hannah, Julia's best friend, is described as a mormon and even goes to Utah when everyone is initially freaking out at the possibility that the world might be ending. I wasn't very happy with the portrayal of Hannah and her mormon side, but it has been worse in other books I have read and have skimmed over. If you're going to write about someone's culture, or someone's religion, do research. Do not have stereotypical, 'Hannah had 6 siblings, meaning that they had to drive a van just to get anywhere' or that 'Hannah had long hair, down to her back.'. While it might be coming from a prejudice protagonist, it just makes me dislike the protagonist more than I would normally. I'm a big fan of studying other religions and seeking to understand better why they do certain things or why certain rituals/ceremonies are done for. I especially didn't like the fact that, after Hannah returns back from Utah, she is commented on wearing the same, 'Pink Tanktop and blue jeans' as another mormon friend that Hannah has made and inevitably ditches Julia for. If Kate Walker had done her research, she would know that mormons have certain dress standards that we abide by, some including wearing sleeves, not showing your midriff, cleavage, or plunging backs. While it is a standard, it's understandable that not every single woman in the church will follow it, but it annoyed me that Hannah was shown to be like that.
Another part of this was the fact that Hannah was sharing with Julia about when she went to Utah, there was a cute mormon boy that she met and one night, snuck into her room.
Umm, excuse me.
I understand that you'd want them to seem like normal teen girls who have crushes on boys, but they are 11. Eleven Years Old.
Julia - There were times I really forgot that Julia was only around 11-12 years old. By the way she spoke and hung out with Seth when they begin their relationship, I was clearly thinking of her as a 16-17 year old. Poor writing, maybe, I'm not sure.
I'm not sure why, but she seemed empty as a character. This is definitely my personal opinion, but I didn't connect to her very much. Thinking back to her as a character, nothing really pops out at me as particularly interesting or something I immensely loved. She was pretty much a narrator for me throughout this story. She's a neutral character to me; I neither loved her, nor hated her.
Julia's Parents - See, these two characters were easily more fleshed out and caught my eye better than the two main characters. Julia's mum is a worrier, she is the one who when she hears that a apocalypse could be near, she starts saving up on survival emergency items; canned foods, bottle and bottles of water, candles, etc. Julia's Dad is the calm one out of them both, and continues working even though everyone is throwing out their old life and starting a new one in nearby colonies. Things get even more complex when Julia finds out that her Dad is having an affair with Sylvia, her piano teacher, and her mother has developed 'Syndrome' - I really felt for the parents more than I did with Seth and Julia. Their story was one of complexity, and back story.
Hannah - I can't even discuss this character. I am so sad that Karen Walker messed up Hannah and tagged her as a mormon without any real understanding of it. She just made Hannah a plot device to make Julia seem more alone and friendless.
Julia's Grandad - Grandad was such a funny and cute character. I loved all his minor scenes, and the way he tried to pawn off all his stuff onto her. I felt suckerpunched to the chest when they found his dead body in the bomb shelter, especially under the circumstances that he was going to Julia's birthday dinner. *Tries to not crawl into self again*
- All the implications that come just from the Earth slowing down. It still shakes me of how cool a concept it is, and why there aren't more fictional books using that as a reason for an apocalypse.
- Julia's family members - they were all so complicated and with their good sides and flaws.
- The cover! THE COOOOVVEEER! *Drags my fingertips across it* so pretty...
- The title of the book. It's really intriguing and poetic.
- How Karen Walker wrote some lines in past tense, such as, 'That was the last time I ever tasted a strawberry'. It left this eery feeling of - 'Did just never eat another one because she died? Did strawberries go extinct?'
Things I didn't like:
- Julia and Seth's relationship. It was forced, and when they held hands and kissed for the first time, I felt nothing.
- The ending! THERE WAS NO FEELING OF, 'WOW. DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?' OR 'NOOO!'
- I couldn't really tell the reason of why this book was written; Was it to show the lack of care that humans give the Earth? Was it to show a mirror to us of what we might do in an apocalyptic setting? Was it trying to show us what was really important? What was the point?
I was amped that this was going to be a really great novel about the end of the world in an original way, but really it just felt like things were gliding along without a real reason. I didn't connect with the characters that I was meant to, and found the ending very disappointing in terms of closure (Though I understand that that was part of the writing). There are points that I do really love (The Cover, The plot idea, the family members of Julia) and points that I absolutely am annoyed by (Hannah, Seth, Julia, The ending) so that leaves me a bit torn.
I'm rating this book a 5 out of 10! I don't hate it and will rate it down into the pits of doom, but neither will I praise it and recommend it to others. It shall be a neutral border-line! :)
My Favourite Quote/s
“It was a rough crossing, the one from childhood to the next life. And as with any other harsh journey, not everything survived.”
― Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles
"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.”
― Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles