What would it be like to be a child in the age of self-awareness when the world is slowly winding down, everything you know is changing, and there is not a single person who can help you understand who you are or where you fit?
This is the premise of Karen Thompson Walker’s first novel, The Age of MIracles. It is my favorite book of the last 30 or so I’ve read.
The main character is a twelve-year-old girl, Julia, through whose voice the story is told. She is looking back as a young adult, with a poignancy and eloquence that does not feel forced. One day the world is easy and full of potential; the next it is filled with an unsettling, ominous new reality. The sun has risen later. The rotation of the earth has slowed.
The story itself is told on two fronts. First, there is Julia’s coming of age, navigating the difficulties of friends, boys, and fighting parents. Second, there is the looming scepter of a slowly-developing world disaster. She can’t stop living the first, but can’t escape the second. Nor can anyone else, as nobody knows what they might do if the eternal rhythms of the world slowly disappeared into uncertainty.
Walker’s writing is simple and elegant. She manages to capture a young girls’s authentic voice without devolving into the annoying self-importance that characterizes most young adult fiction.
The plot takes its time and does not try to do too much. It stays localized, and doesn’t spend much time trying to explain the impossibility of the phenomenon itself. It’s about people, not science. The question is not, “Could this really happen?” but, “How we can help our children grow and thrive in the real world we inhabit, one filled with fear and uncertainty caused not by the spinning of the earth but by our own self-inflicted crises?”
AMC has purchased the rights for a future series.