Saturday 21 July 2012

203. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Published June 2012 Simon & Schuster

From the publisher:
One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself.

Everyone at some point in their lives has wished for more time.  Just another hour in the day, imagine how handy that extra hour would be.  What if the world suddenly gained 56 minutes overnight?  What if it didn’t stop there, what if new minutes were added to every hour?  What would this mean to us?  To the planet?  That is the scenario faced in The Age of Miracles.  One day lengthens by 56 minutes, months later one day is 40 hours long.

Told from the point of view of Julia, 11 years old living in southern California.  Only child, parents happily married, lives in a nice neighbourhood, likes soccer, has a secret crush on a boy named Seth and has a best friend called Hanna.  Everything changes when the world starts slowing down.  Like time itself slowing, the changes happen gradually.  In the beginning everyone was glued to the TV for news, people panic shopped, and supermarket shelves emptied, families started moving away, either to extended family or religious groups who gathered together.  As time goes on more changes become apparent in the the world at large, birds start falling from the sky. people are becoming sick because of the changes in gravity, and there are astronauts stuck up in the space station that can't come back until time stops slowing.
As much as the book is about the physical changes that the planet is undergoing, such longer/hotter days, icy nights, plants and trees dying, changes in the magnetic field, tides flood houses on the beach front and whales beaching themselves, it is also about the changes in society as a reaction to the ‘slowing’.    

The world becomes divided into those living on ‘clock time’  and those who chose to live on 'real time'.  The days have  become so long, that the government makes a decision to create order out of the chaos.  No matter what the actual length of the day, it is recommended that everyone starts using ‘clock time’.  Most people go along with it as it’s the only way to keep structure in their lives. It means that some days 9am will be dusk, and some days it will be the middle of the night.  Real timers work with the new order, and live long days and nights, they are in the minority as most people chose ‘clock time’ because it is easier for schools, business and government to run this way.  As a result the real timers become ostracised and become victims of hate crimes because they are choosing to live this 'alternative' lifestyle.

Julia is dealing with all of these big changes, but she still has the regular worries of a girl heading into her teenage years.  Julia’s best friend Hanna moves away, and Julia finds herself spending a lot of time alone.  She's a little bit like Goldilocks, there are other girls at school that she could be friends with, but for whatever reason, they are not quite right.  Then there's Seth, one minute he is friendly, the next he won't even look at her.  Then there are cracks starting to show at home, her mother becomes sick, and is extremely paranoid, her father is more relaxed, but starts spending more and more time away from home.

I really liked this book, I want to say this book is slow paced, but I don't mean that in a negative way.  Like the 'slowing' in the book, this is a story that unfolds slowly and seems to stretch out,  I don't know if I am explaining it well enough, but the writing seems to fit perfectly with the story.  There is also no explanation offered in this book, because no one seems to know why it happened, there are lots of theories, but no resolute answers. 

The ending of the book is also interesting, I won't tell you (obviously), but what I will say is that it's not a Hollywood or a Fairytale ending.  The most interesting aspect for me was the different ways in which people cope with the new world order, and it makes you think about what you might do in the same situation.

Click here for a link to the website that has reading notes, extracts and much more

Who will like this book: Girls age 14+
Read it if you like: stories that make you THINK

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