Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker
My bookstore friend had a book for me–“imaginative premise”, she said, “I dreamt about it all night.” Then the suggestion that I just might want to consider it as a read-aloud for my classes. And she was right. Even the New Yorker raved about this debut novel in their August 6 issue, saying author Karen Walker “creates lovely, low-key scenes to dramatize her premise”–and it’s that premise that is so compelling. Imagine if the earth slowed on its axis, days growing longer, nights stretching on, magnetic field bending and twisting.
It was called “the slowing.” The world’s top scientists had no explanation, no solutions. In the beginning, all that could be done was to carry on. So eleven-year-old Julia–friendless, flat-chested, and still in so many ways a little girl–continued with the hell that was sixth grade. Her school adjusted start times by the day, trying to maintain the status quo; some neighbors slid into a new rhythm, gardening at midnight and sleeping at noon. Birds died in pairs or by dozens on lawns. Her mother began to stockpile food and suffer “the sickness”: fainting, insomniac, nauseated. Weather shifted and crops withered.
Finally, when light stretched on to nearly thirty-two hours, the president announced that Americans would revert to a twenty-four hour clock. And so Julia tells us, “light would be unhooked from day, darkness unchained from night”– clock time was enacted. Blackout curtains became an essential and sleeping pill use skyrocketed. Not everyone fell into step and “real-timers” began to slip away into the desert, building “shadow communities” that followed a circadian rhythm for this new age.
Through this chaos, Julia lives out her own age of miracles–she becomes fast friends with her crush Seth, watches her parents’ love ebb and grow, and always takes in the dying beauty around her. Karen Walker presents the unimaginable, the idea that the home we call Earth could come to a horrific end, through the eyes of a girl standing on the edge of promise and hope. It is Julia who just might give us a glimpse of why we are here: Though the pace of the slowing had slackened over the years, it had never stopped. The damage had been done, and we had come to suspect that we were dying. But … we carried on. We persisted … we told stories and we fell in love. We fought and we forgave. Some still hoped the world might right itself. Babies continued to be born.