The Age of Miracles: A Review

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Before we even start talking about The Age of Miracles, I wanted to announce the winner of the Divergent movie!! Rachelle! You won! We’ll be pre-ordering it for you, so expect delivery sometime in August. Yay dystopian movie night! 

Now then, The Age of Miracles is not a feel good read. Let’s just put that out there from the very beginning. The Twix was needed to sweeten things up. I read the bulk of it in one sitting, and when I stopped just a few pages from the end (because I live in the world of baby interruptions) it took me a little while to remember that that world wasn’t our current reality. I know that sounds weird, but it is such a realistic read and the issue of the world slowing its spin handled in a slow, steady way that it just felt like it could happen tomorrow. Which was kind of the worst part. But enough from me, let’s here from the two other ladies who have some excellent thoughts on The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

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This is Margy! She 1) has the greatest bangs and 2) was the very first person to read her book and get me her write up of all the people ever. So she wins the best contributor award this week. I tip my hat to you Margy!

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Meet Laura! We went to high school together and she occasionally writes at Buffalo Writes if you’d like to follow along with her adventures. Laura makes a mean tapenade and has yet to point me in the wrong direction for happy hour, so she’s a keeper.

Lauren: So within the first few pages of this book I was immediately impressed and was completely sucked in. The premise is something I hadn’t even thought of as a possibility. It, honestly, had never occurred to me. Of course now it has recently been all I can think about…. 

Margy: I hadn’t even heard of this book, prior to this “assignment”.  When I read the back cover, I was definitely intrigued and interested.  My initial reaction to the book was one of “Wow, this is good!”.  I was excited to see how the story unfolded.

Laura: I knew absolutely nothing about this book going into it, but when I looked up the description on Goodreads, I was excited. I tend to enjoy this type of “sci-fi lite” books, where some big Scientific Happening serves as the backdrop to the “real story.” I admittedly wasn’t TOO stoked about the protagonist being a middle-school girl, because… well, let’s face it, middle schoolers are typically awful creatures.

Side note: Even after I started reading the book, I could never remember the title. Ever. I always had to look it up to remember what I was reading. Really not sure why.

Margy: The Age of Miracles is the story of a young girl, Julia, and the effects of the world literally slowing down.  We witness her relationships change and watch the world get dramatically altered because of the slowing.

Laura: Julia is eleven years old when “the slowing” begins — a steady and constant slowing of the earth’s rotation around the sun. This results in drastic changes to the length of each day–and, as one might imagine, some drastic changes to society. Julia has to navigate all of this while also navigating the horror that is sixth grade.

Lauren: This story is about yet another world catastrophe that I have to now worry about and silently plot to survive. 

Margy: One annoyance… the way the author would write stuff like, “Had I known how much time would pass before we’d see each other again, I would have said a different goodbye.”  I hate that sort of dramatic foretelling… I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but it does.  It’s like I’m expecting something huge to happen and then it doesn’t.  Unnecessary melodrama.  It certaily didn’t stop be from reading, but everytime I read a melodramatic phrase, I would get irritated. 

Themes?  Hmmmm…. maybe just that life is fragile.  What we know as constant and steady can be changed in a day. 

I was sucked into the dynamic between Julia and her “boy”friend, Seth. Julia was so lonely and she and Seth were so well-paired. 

Laura: Let me start out by saying — this book so perfectly captures what it’s like to be a middle schooler that it’s often uncomfortable. The awkwardness, the anxiousness, the loneliness — reading this book, all those feelings hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I was back in middle school (an awful, terrible feeling) and noticed that I felt much more anxious during the week or so that I was reading this book. Big kudos to Walker for being able to so accurately depict that period of life.

It’s fitting that the book brings up those uncomfortable middle-school feelings, because they tie in well with the main theme: the haunting passage of time. How quickly it goes by, how cruel and unrelenting it is. Time spares no one and nothing and makes you realize that, ultimately, you are alone in the world. If that all sounds depressing… well, yeah actually, this book was a bit depressing. I kept waiting for the uplifting twist, the silver-lining ending… and it never really arrived. This book has loneliness and fatalism at its core.

On a totally tangential, pet-peeve related note: it irks me when authors end chapters or sections with things like, “It would get much worse later,” or “We had no idea how bad it’d get.” Walker deployed this tactic, particularly towards the beginning of the book. Just show me how bad it gets — don’t tell me how bad it’ll get. For me, it takes away some of the suspense.

Lauren: For me, all of that constant foreshadowing just made me feel like everything I was reading was back story and the real story would be from wherever she was telling the story. Except…. it kind of never gets there, so it felt really anti-climactic and a little unsatisfying. I REALLY wanted to know what her life was as an adult. It is not as satisfying as I would have liked. 

Margy: The author def succeeded in telling the story. The author painted a great picture, I could see everything as she described it. As I was reading, I kept wondering how it would end.  The earth kept declining and how was it going to be saved? The ending of the book def had holes.  It’s 10ish years later and we don’t know anything about Julia. Nothing.  It just sort of dropped. But,  I like that the book did not have a “Hollywood” ending, but it left me wondering what was next… 

Laura: I have to admit — when I finished, I wondered what a writer like Margaret Atwood could have done with this story. Don’t get me wrong, Walker is a good writer… but some of the writing didn’t pack as much of a punch as I think it could have in another’s hands The entire book is told with a “looking back” perspective — Julia is a young adult now, looking back at herself as a young girl. Which fell a little flat for me — some of the Big Events don’t seem quite as big because you KNOW the protagonist survives. I feel like the story would have more immediacy if it were told “as it happened.”

Lauren: This is going to sound so annoying elitist … and really? Who am I to make this judgement call…. but, I totally agree with Laura – this book, though well imagined and well done in parts, felt like a beginner’s novel. I think it is totally worth a read and is very thought provoking, but it felt like it could have used another year of work.

Margy: I was surprised by how scared I felt — and paranoid of this happening in real life!  

Laura: I was surprised how much I liked it. About a third of the way through, I wasn’t really digging it — not much of a plotline to speak of, and the writing style wasn’t grabbing me (largely because of that “BUT WAIT IT WOULD GET WORSE” device). But all of a sudden… something switched, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. It nested in my brain and took hold. I think that’s because about halfway through the book the major themes became apparent… and for me, they’re themes that resonate. It’s a seemingly simple book that makes you think.

Margy: I would def recommend.  I did enjoy the book, despite a few annoyances.  It was a gripping & quick read.  I could see young adults reading this… as well as anyone, really.   

Laura: I did enjoy the book — but I have to say, DON’T READ THIS BOOK if you’re already feeling a bit down. There’s no happy ending here. I actually thought about buying it for my goddaughter, who’s currently in middle school… and then thought it might be a little Too Real for someone currently surviving middle school. If you have some distance between yourself and 6th grade — have at it!

*Alright everyone – who has read this book? I think I added it from the list from going back and checking out reader suggestions from other book lists. I have been recommending it right and left because it is super interesting, but it hits deep. I think coming off of Divergent, it was a the perfect comparison. This could be an amazingly honest and true YA, if not a little bit intense. This is how you write YA (if this is truly YA) without talking down to your audience. Anyone who has read this – have you become afraid of the sun? Because now all I can think about is: RADIATION! AHH!*

11 thoughts on “The Age of Miracles: A Review”

  1. I’m wondering if anyone has any apocalypse exhaustion? It’s everywhere! The Walking Dead, WWZ, Margaret Atwood, disease, famine, climate change, etc.

    Personally I’m starting to get kind of worn out over worrying and feeling kind of helpless. Is the intensity of this trend new? Or just in fashion? Why do we love reading about it? And what makes us think we’ll be the few who survive?

    1. I have a real preference for books that don’t depress or worry me, so I definitely have apocalypse exhaustion. I’m okay if bad things happen, but I do really prefer an at least moderately happy ending. (So I probably won’t be adding Age of Miracles to my list.)

    2. I guess I don’t know enough about the “literary trends” to know if this is a NEW thing, or if it just SEEMS like a new thing. I.e., if the apocalypse books are just the ones heavily marketed right now, but they’ve always been out there.

    3. Personally – I LOVE appocalyptic stories. I love reading about end of the world/zombie infestation scenarios, and how characters deal with the shitty hand they’ve been dealt. Mind you, there are a ton of these types of stories and books that have come out in the past few years, and not all of them are good. I pick and choose the ones I want to read carefully. I don’t need a happy ending. I’m one of those people that likes to sit down and watch Requiem for a Dream, and Intervention and Hoarders and feel all the feels because of it. I like books about addiction and death and, well, I don’t necessarily care if the outcome is a good one. I like the realness of it all. I’m a super optimistic and happy person in my daily life, but ever since I was young I was more drawn to these types of movies/books. Also, as far as being a survivor goes – my husband is big on survival. We have bug out bags prepared, and smaller ones for the car (because you just never know), and a plan for what we would do if there was ever a zombie outbreak (or more likely, terrorist attack) and how we would get back to one another. We talk about this type of scenario semi regularly, but in all honesty it makes me feel so much safer knowing that if shit ever hit the fan, I’m prepared enough to get my self home safely and have the tools to do so. It makes the “what ifs” not so scary.

      1. Kamel is super the same way with movies and shows. He looooooves Requiem for a Dream, but I get upset even hearing the story told to me.

        I wish we were more prepared for disaster. I’m pretty sure I could anticipate a lot of issues and I can be quick on my feet and resourceful, but I worry about Kamel’s reflexes and now that we have a baby, WTF.

        But I, too, love apocalypse-y stuff… I don’t know if my psyche can handle it. hahaha. It stays with me and then I carry it around in my head for too long.

        1. Seriously – I can’t even begin to tell you what my dreams are like from all of the zombie/end of the world stuff I read/watch. There is always lots of running and fighting. I guess that’s just the way my brain processes all of it. When the husband and I talk about different scenarios we always include our two pups – but sometimes the conversations get to real and it makes me sad and we have to stop.

          Also, I’m pretty sure that not everyone would expect to survive/fight. I have a friend that has always said if zombies start eating people, just use me as bait because I don’t want to live through that. It’s one of those situations that everyone thinks about – but you have no idea how you would fair in real life. I guess you could take into account any fight or flight moments you have had in your life and compare how you handled yourself. I tend to stay very calm and composed during catastrophes and save the breaking down for afterwards – but I mean, I’ve also never dealt with anyone trying to eat my face…so there’s that. Once that adrenaline kicks in and that initial shock wares off, I’d like to think that we are pretty resilient as people on the whole and would find a way to stick together and tough it out. Or at least that’s what I hope for.

  2. Apocalypse-y stuff usually frightens me… unless it’s sooo far fetched. I always think, “hey, this can’t really happen… so don’t worry about it.” BUT! With this book, I was legit worried, because it was so realistic.

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