In the summer of 2011, the publishing world engaged in a fierce bidding war for a debut novel. The Age of Miracles, written by Karen Thompson Walker, is a dystopian novel. Its portrait of an Earth slowing down after being knocked off its axis by a mysterious cataclysm spookily mirrored the newscasts broadcasting from Japan at the time of the auction. Japan had just been devastated by a real life natural disaster—a giant tsunami following a massive undersea earthquake.
The novel is told from the point of view of 11 year old Julia. She doesn’t have magical powers, she’s not in love with a vampire, and she’s not setting the world on fire with her archery skills. She’s simply a normal kid doing her best to survive the vicissitudes of adolescence. Julia describes her world and herself the following way:
“This was middle school, the age of miracles, the time when kids shot up three inches over the summer, when breasts bloomed from nothing, when voices dipped and dove. Our first flaws were emerging, but they were being corrected. Blurry vision could be fixed invisibly with the magic of the contact lens. Crooked teeth were pulled straight with braces … A few boys were growing tall. I knew I still looked like a child.”
Julia has the bad luck to enter her age of miracles just as Earth enters an age of winding down, exposing flaws no one knows how to correct. Thompson interweaves Julia’s observations of the “slowing” of the planet with the story of her budding romance with her schoolmate, Seth, and the unraveling of her parents’ marriage. Julia is young, but she faces her situation with a maturity many adults would envy. Walker makes her believable—and before I knew it Julia had crept into my heart.
P.S. The book selling & publishing newsletter Shelf Awareness has dedicated an issue to The Age of Miracles.