Monday, January 21, 2013

the age of miracles

the age of miracles
karen thompson walker
random house
published 2013

“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.

I finished this book about 5 minutes ago and then I sat staring off into space, my chest tight and a sob trapped in my throat.  Incredibly sad, haunting, disturbing, beautiful, lonely.

I was struck most of the time at how lonely Julia was.  How awful sometimes being 11 can be.  Not having any siblings to lean on, Julia looks towards her parents for strength, but they are falling apart in their own ways much faster than she ever does.  Her quiet sadness permeates through the book, but not in a way that makes her seem whiny or pouty.  She's accepted.  She is the most unafraid of them all.

And while I ached for this child I was frozen with the terror of 'the slowing'.  It is something that at first seems so silly, so made up.  And you think for a minute, seriously, what's the big deal.  While it is so much science fiction, it is so believable that you begin to fear that something like this is just beyond our horizon.  It is a science fiction that feels more science than fiction and it is frightening.

As the days stretch into weeks Julia's life moves as it must.  Despite the seemingly end of the world feel, she still dreams of sweet boys and best friends that left her behind.  Her grandfather's stories of Alaska and the mystery and allure that surrounds the 'real timers'.

The tightness in my chest is still there.  I kept waiting, expecting some miracle as the title promises, but I don't know.  I don't know if I can accept the miracle that Walker provides.  The book is astoundingly good.  I just don't know if I was ready to read something like that.

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