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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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The Age of Miracles

by

The Age of Miracles Cover

 

Awards

Staff Pick

As if facing the everyday insecurities and turmoil of adolescence isn't enough, 11-year-old Julia lives within the reality of a post-apocalyptic situation as the earth's rotation begins slowing by measurable degrees each day. Relationships, personal and official, fracture, torn apart by the uncertainty of living in a world where time — night, day, schedules — no longer holds much meaning. In a tale that is as graceful as it is intelligent, as realistic as it is fantastic, this haunting debut creates a snapshot of a world changing beyond recognition. What effect will it have on you?
Recommended by Heidi Mager, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

With a voice as distinctive and original as that of The Lovely Bones, and for the fans of the speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood, Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is a luminous, haunting, and unforgettable debut novel about coming of age set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.

“It still amazes me how little we really knew....Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life — the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

Review:

"In this gripping debut, 11-year-old Julia wakes one day to the news that the earth's rotation has started slowing. The immediate effects — no one at soccer practice; relentless broadcasts of the same bewildered scientists — soon feel banal compared to what unfolds. 'The slowing' is growing slower still, and soon both day and night are more than twice as long as they once were. When governments decide to stick to the 24-hour schedule (ignoring circadian rhythms), a subversive movement erupts, 'real-timers' who disregard the clock and appear to be weathering the slowing better than clock-timers — at first. Thompson's Julia is the perfect narrator. On the brink of adolescence, she's as concerned with buying her first bra as with the birds falling out of the sky. She wants to be popular as badly as she wants her world to remain familiar. While the apocalypse looms large — has in fact already arrived — the narrative remains fiercely grounded in the surreal and horrifying day-to-day and the personal decisions that persist even though no one knows what to do. A triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum, the story also feels eerily plausible, as if the problems we've been worrying about all along pale in comparison to what might actually bring our end. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"[Walker's] voice turns what might have been just a clever mash-up of disaster epic with sensitive young-adult, coming-of-age story into a genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary with impressive fluency and flair." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Review:

"The Age of Miracles spins its glowing magic through incredibly lucid and honest prose, giving equal care and dignity to the small spheres and the large. It is at once a love letter to the world as we know it and an elegy." Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Review:

"Gripping from first page to last, The Age of Miracles is itself a small, perfectly formed miracle: Written with the cadence and pitch of poetry, this gem of a novel is a wrenching and all-too-believable parable for our times, and one of the most original coming-of-age stories I have ever read. Karen Thompson Walker is the real deal." Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion

Review:

"Walker captures each moment, intimate and universal, with magical precision. Riveting, heartbreaking, profoundly moving." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review:

"The Age of Miracles is pure magnificence. Deeply moving and beautifully executed, Karen Thompson Walker has written the perfect novel for the global-warming age." Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk about Anne Frank

Review:

"What a remarkable and beautifully wrought novel. In its depiction of a world at once utterly like and unlike our own, The Age of Miracles is so convincingly unsettling that it just might make you stockpile emergency supplies of batteries and bottled water. It also — thank goodness — provides great solace with its wisdom, its compassion, and the elegance of its storytelling." Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep

Review:

"'Miracles' indeed. Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel is a stunner from the first page — an end-of-the-world, coming-of-age tale of quiet majesty. I loved this novel and can't wait to see what this remarkable writer will do next." Justin Cronin, author of The Passage

Review:

"Is the end near? In Karen Thompson Walker's beautiful and frightening debut, sunsets are becoming rarities, 'real-timers' live in daylight colonies while mainstream America continues to operate on the moribund system of 'Clock Time,' and environmentalists rail against global dependence on crops that guzzle light. Against this apocalyptic backdrop, Walker sets the coming-of-age story of brave, bewildered Julia, who wonders at the 'malleable rhythms'of the increasingly erratic adults around her. Like master fabulists Steven Millhauser and Kevin Brockmeier, Karen Thompson Walker takes a fantastic premise and makes it feel thrillingly real. In precise, poetic language, she floods the California suburbs with shadows and a doomsday glow, and in this altered light shows us amazing things about how one family responds to a stunningly imagined global crisis." Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

Review:

"This is what imagination is. In The Age of Miracles, the earth's rotation slows, gravity alters, days are stretched out to fifty hours of sunlight. In the midst of this, a young girl falls in loves, sees things she shouldn't and suffers heartbreak of the most ordinary kind. Karen Thompson Walker has managed to combine fiction of the dystopian future with an incisive and powerful portrait of our personal present." Amy Bloom, author of Away

Review:

"The Age of Miracles is pure magnificence. Deeply moving and beautifully executed, Karen Thompson Walker has written the perfect novel for the global-warming age." Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges

Review:

"Reading The Age of Miracles is like gazing into a sky of constellations and being mesmerized by the the strange yet familiar sensation of infinity. Beautifully written, the novel lets the readers see the world within us and the world without with an unforgettable freshness." Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

Review:

"The Age of Miracles is harrowing and beautiful on the ways in which those catastrophes already hidden about us in plain sight, once ratcheted up just a bit, provide us with a glimpse of the end of our species' run on earth: the uncanny distress of hundreds of beached whales, or the surreal unease of waves rolling across the rooftops of beachfront houses. And as it does it reminds us of all of the miracles of human regard that will have taken place before then: the way compassion will retain its resilience, and the way, for those of us in love, a string of afternoons will be as good as a year." Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway (National Book Award finalist)

About the Author

Karen Thompson Walker is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program and a recipient of the 2011 Sirenland Fellowship as well as a Bomb magazine fiction prize. A former editor at Simon & Schuster, she wrote The Age of Miracles in the mornings before work. Born and raised in San Diego, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband. The Age of Miracles is her first book.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 31 comments:

smark12, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by smark12)
This was the first book in a very long time in which I was completely and totally immersed. So much so that I needed to remind myself that I was reading fiction, and that the events in the novel weren't actually happening in present, everyday life. I really loved that it was from the perspective of a young woman looking back on her adolescence; the author created such a disquieting account of nostalgia. The sense of longing is amplified by her uncertain future. There is a great parallel to the isolation felt as a pre-teen/teen to the desolation created through 'the happening'. A very thought-provoking novel, and one I will definitely be recommending to others.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Leonard Sommer, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Leonard Sommer)
Growing up as teenage girl in suburban LA, and, oh yeah, the world is coming to a slowing end. The book makes you think about the large historical forces and their impact on our tiny lives and development. Well written and even lyrically written.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Megan Morrow, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Megan Morrow)
This beautiful, haunting, affirming book stuck with me long after I turned the last page, and I recommended it to everyone who was looking for their next book to read. I was also inspired by hearing Karen Thompson Walker speak about her process during a visit to a Minneapolis bookstore -- so much of her writing was done before work through years of diligence and dedication. I really loved a lot of books last year, but this one was tops.
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View all 31 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780812992977
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Thompson Walker, Karen
Author:
Karen Thompson Walker
Author:
Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20120626
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
9.54 x 6.57 x 1.08 in 1.22 lb

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The Age of Miracles Sale Hardcover
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$10.98 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Random House - English 9780812992977 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

As if facing the everyday insecurities and turmoil of adolescence isn't enough, 11-year-old Julia lives within the reality of a post-apocalyptic situation as the earth's rotation begins slowing by measurable degrees each day. Relationships, personal and official, fracture, torn apart by the uncertainty of living in a world where time — night, day, schedules — no longer holds much meaning. In a tale that is as graceful as it is intelligent, as realistic as it is fantastic, this haunting debut creates a snapshot of a world changing beyond recognition. What effect will it have on you?

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this gripping debut, 11-year-old Julia wakes one day to the news that the earth's rotation has started slowing. The immediate effects — no one at soccer practice; relentless broadcasts of the same bewildered scientists — soon feel banal compared to what unfolds. 'The slowing' is growing slower still, and soon both day and night are more than twice as long as they once were. When governments decide to stick to the 24-hour schedule (ignoring circadian rhythms), a subversive movement erupts, 'real-timers' who disregard the clock and appear to be weathering the slowing better than clock-timers — at first. Thompson's Julia is the perfect narrator. On the brink of adolescence, she's as concerned with buying her first bra as with the birds falling out of the sky. She wants to be popular as badly as she wants her world to remain familiar. While the apocalypse looms large — has in fact already arrived — the narrative remains fiercely grounded in the surreal and horrifying day-to-day and the personal decisions that persist even though no one knows what to do. A triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum, the story also feels eerily plausible, as if the problems we've been worrying about all along pale in comparison to what might actually bring our end. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "[Walker's] voice turns what might have been just a clever mash-up of disaster epic with sensitive young-adult, coming-of-age story into a genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary with impressive fluency and flair."
"Review" by , "The Age of Miracles spins its glowing magic through incredibly lucid and honest prose, giving equal care and dignity to the small spheres and the large. It is at once a love letter to the world as we know it and an elegy."
"Review" by , "Gripping from first page to last, The Age of Miracles is itself a small, perfectly formed miracle: Written with the cadence and pitch of poetry, this gem of a novel is a wrenching and all-too-believable parable for our times, and one of the most original coming-of-age stories I have ever read. Karen Thompson Walker is the real deal."
"Review" by , "Walker captures each moment, intimate and universal, with magical precision. Riveting, heartbreaking, profoundly moving."
"Review" by , "The Age of Miracles is pure magnificence. Deeply moving and beautifully executed, Karen Thompson Walker has written the perfect novel for the global-warming age."
"Review" by , "What a remarkable and beautifully wrought novel. In its depiction of a world at once utterly like and unlike our own, The Age of Miracles is so convincingly unsettling that it just might make you stockpile emergency supplies of batteries and bottled water. It also — thank goodness — provides great solace with its wisdom, its compassion, and the elegance of its storytelling."
"Review" by , "'Miracles' indeed. Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel is a stunner from the first page — an end-of-the-world, coming-of-age tale of quiet majesty. I loved this novel and can't wait to see what this remarkable writer will do next."
"Review" by , "Is the end near? In Karen Thompson Walker's beautiful and frightening debut, sunsets are becoming rarities, 'real-timers' live in daylight colonies while mainstream America continues to operate on the moribund system of 'Clock Time,' and environmentalists rail against global dependence on crops that guzzle light. Against this apocalyptic backdrop, Walker sets the coming-of-age story of brave, bewildered Julia, who wonders at the 'malleable rhythms'of the increasingly erratic adults around her. Like master fabulists Steven Millhauser and Kevin Brockmeier, Karen Thompson Walker takes a fantastic premise and makes it feel thrillingly real. In precise, poetic language, she floods the California suburbs with shadows and a doomsday glow, and in this altered light shows us amazing things about how one family responds to a stunningly imagined global crisis."
"Review" by , "This is what imagination is. In The Age of Miracles, the earth's rotation slows, gravity alters, days are stretched out to fifty hours of sunlight. In the midst of this, a young girl falls in loves, sees things she shouldn't and suffers heartbreak of the most ordinary kind. Karen Thompson Walker has managed to combine fiction of the dystopian future with an incisive and powerful portrait of our personal present."
"Review" by , "The Age of Miracles is pure magnificence. Deeply moving and beautifully executed, Karen Thompson Walker has written the perfect novel for the global-warming age."
"Review" by , "Reading The Age of Miracles is like gazing into a sky of constellations and being mesmerized by the the strange yet familiar sensation of infinity. Beautifully written, the novel lets the readers see the world within us and the world without with an unforgettable freshness."
"Review" by , "The Age of Miracles is harrowing and beautiful on the ways in which those catastrophes already hidden about us in plain sight, once ratcheted up just a bit, provide us with a glimpse of the end of our species' run on earth: the uncanny distress of hundreds of beached whales, or the surreal unease of waves rolling across the rooftops of beachfront houses. And as it does it reminds us of all of the miracles of human regard that will have taken place before then: the way compassion will retain its resilience, and the way, for those of us in love, a string of afternoons will be as good as a year."
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