I have a flurry of book reviews waiting in a line to be published. I chose The Age of Miracles to go first as it pushed its way to the front wearing a sparkly feather boa, tapping its watch.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: June 2012
I enjoyed this book so much that I let friends borrow it, and they in turn told their friends, and so the ripples of reader recommendation slowly widened like the hours of the day in this apocalyptic novel.
What would happen if the day grew longer than 24 hours? This is the question at the heart of this novel, and it is a very clever, original concept. I especially like the way the author told the story from a 12-year old child’s point of view, as in a way a child has to be more accepting – they have to fall in line with however their parents have chosen to deal with the situation. So we see life from our narrator’s narrow angle – how school would continue, how those all-important first romances still blossom, how the adult world strives to keep control. Perhaps using a child protagonist saved the author some headaches – as a child isn’t expected to understand or explain the scientific realities of such an event – and so we never know why this happened, what caused it, or how it can be solved, either. Like the child, we have to also fall in line with the part the author wants to focus on – the actual event, referred to as ‘The Slowing’.
As epic dystopias go, or even disaster fiction, The Age of Miracles is surely up there on a grand scale. I realised that halfway through I couldn’t remember the protagonist’s name – but it didn’t matter, really. This is one of those stories where the idea eclipses the characters. There is a part where the narrator feels the need to mark her name in wet concrete to show she was there – and this to me is allegorical of her character’s part in the story – I as a reader need to remember she’s there, too, despite my fascination with discovering how civilisation adapts to a precarious situation. But the author understands this, and so she gives her characters compelling but quiet parts to play – from skateboarding pragmatic Seth to Sylvia, the hippy pianist trying to continue on clock time.
There is page-turning build up of tension throughout this novel, although the inevitable ending swiftly becomes apparent – an idea so rooted in reality cannot conceivably support a fantasy conclusion. The movie rights have been optioned by River Road Entertainment (Brokeback Mountain, etc) so it will be interesting to see how they approach it, as there isn’t a hero, or a satisfactory Hollywood finale. Instead we are left to imagine what happens after, and as such the premise lingers for a very long time.
As a debut, this was a fantastic read, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next story from this author.
The author's website: www.theageofmiraclesbook.com