Monday, December 31, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker


The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is a coming-of-age dystopian novel which makes it sound not unlike The Hunger Games but no two novels could be further apart, frankly.  While both have a female protagonist and a love interest, the quiet quality of this novel elevates it to a well-deserved literary status. 

The story, told through the eyes/voice of 10 year old Julia, is simple in its elegance.  When the rotation of the earth on its axis begins to slow, the realization and implications are gradual, not unlike the slow approach of adolescence, bringing unexpected, barely observable changes.  Because the narrator is so young, the observations she makes are less dramatic, more intimate and, as a result, more universal.  She tells her story through the complications of relationships.  Her mother is more affected by the earth’s rotation changes than her father but it is her father’s distancing that has the greater impact.  A best friend moving away and a crush on a boy are of equal relevance to the impact that longer days and nights have on agriculture and society. 

If this novel lacks the sheer despair and poetry of McCarthy’s The Road, it is delicate and subtle in how it allows the reader to experience the despair and inevitable decline of humanity without being overly immersed in hopelessness.  Because of the narrator’s narcissistic focus due to her age, she is unable to see things beyond her immediate needs to understand herself in a world that is changing more alarmingly than even her own body, thoughts, and feelings. 

The story is simple and the conclusion hasty.  For these reasons, I didn’t find it as satisfying as The Road.  And yet, it some ways, the two seem to complement one another and do so beautifully even if one is superior to the other.

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