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California Report (KQED) July 06, 2012
   



Overview - NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
"People ∙ O: The Oprah Magazine ∙ Financial Times ∙ Kansas City Star ∙ BookPage ∙ Kirkus Reviews ∙ Publishers Weekly ∙ Booklist"
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.
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Overview
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
"People ∙ O: The Oprah Magazine ∙ Financial Times ∙ Kansas City Star ∙ BookPage ∙ Kirkus Reviews ∙ Publishers Weekly ∙ Booklist"
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.
"NEW YORK TIMES" BESTSELLER
""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.
Praise for "The Age of Miracles"
" "
"A stunner."--Justin Cronin
"A genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary, with impressive fluency and flair."--Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times"
" "
"Gripping drama . . . flawlessly written; it could be the most assured debut by an American writer since Jennifer Egan's "Emerald City."""--The Denver Post"
"If you begin this book, you'll be loath to set it down until you've reached its end.""--San Francisco Chronicle"
" "
"Provides solace with its wisdom, compassion, and elegance."--Curtis Sittenfeld

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780812992977
  • ISBN-10: 0812992970
  • Publish Date: June 2012


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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-01-30
  • Reviewer: Staff

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. (June)

 
BookPage Reviews

The day the earth slowed down

Who among us hasn’t wished for more hours in a day? In Karen Thompson Walker’s exciting debut novel, The Age of Miracles, we get exactly that—with dire consequences.

Eleven-year-old Julia is going about the business of growing up in suburban San Diego—piano lessons, sleepovers, a cute skater boy—when the inexplicable occurs: The earth begins to slow on its axis. Days stretch out, growing first by a few minutes, then by hours. Clocks become absurd, gravity goes wonky, the sun becomes a menace, the long nights are cold and terrifying. Society must decide whether to follow “clock time” (the government’s choice) or real time (the anarchic, countercultural approach). Kids wait for the school bus in pitch-dark; people hang blackout curtains to sleep through the bright sun of night. No one knows how long the slowing might last or if it will get worse. Suddenly, adolescence is the least of Julia’s worries.

Speaking by phone from her home in Brooklyn, Walker says the idea for The Age of Miracles came from a newspaper article about the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. The earthquake that preceded the tsunami was so powerful it affected the speed of the earth on its axis, shortening the length of a day by fractions of a second. “I just found that very haunting,” Walker says. “Something we think of as stable and steady—sunset and sunrise.”

She immediately wrote a short story inspired by the notion. Years later she went back to the story and felt there was more to say. She also made a crucial change: to slow the earth, rather than speed it up. A grown-up Julia tells the story, looking back on the profound and rapid changes that happened to the world as she grew up. The result is an enthralling novel with multiple layers of tension between the pace of life and the pace of the story.

To adolescents, it can seem as if the world is moving at a glacial pace, that adulthood and its freedoms are endlessly far away. For Julia, this is literally true. Her days are twice as long as they should be. Nevertheless, she’s still in most ways an ordinary (confused, alienated, hopeful) adolescent, beset by life-changing events and emotional upheaval. Walker’s much buzzed-about novel captures all this with eerie precision. “I often had the feeling in those days that I was being watched,” Julia says in the book, “but I think the sensation was a product of the exact opposite conditions.”

Walker credits the authenticity of Julia’s voice to “the emotional memory” of her teenage years. “It’s just an age that I remember well,” she says. “It’s when you first start noticing things in the adult world, and so much is changing. It’s visceral.”

“Everything in the book is invented,” she adds. “None of it happened to me—but I do remember the feeling. As you grow up, certain friends drift away, and there’s your first love, your first interest.”

To make the science of the book feel equally authentic, Walker says, she had to maintain a balance between imagination and hard facts.

“I did some research but it needed to also come from my imagination,” she says. “So it was a combination of my imagination and real science.”

She filed away details from newspaper articles that were tangentially related to her story—things like how the earth’s magnetic field works, how to grow crops in greenhouses, the effects of radiation. Once she had a completed draft, she summoned the courage to show it to an astrophysicist to make sure nothing she’d written was glaringly implausible. “That was scary,” she says, laughing. “I was relieved by how many of the things I wrote were plausible.”

Her job was made a little easier, she adds, because the story focuses on the lives of the people involved, keeping the science in the background. In fact the science behind what’s happening is often mysterious to the characters; the effects of the slowing only have to be explained to the degree that a very bright, observant 11-year-old narrator would be able to grasp.

Julia is a sharp and funny character, and the story has its share of humor and light. But it’s also a grim look at high-speed ecological disaster, and could easily be read as a warning about the importance of treasuring the planet. Walker says she herself is no doomsayer. But, she adds, “I am drawn to stories that have some sort of threat or danger; it has a way of raising the stakes.”

Walker, who wrote the novel while working as an editor at Simon & Schuster, has since quit her job to focus on writing, something she’d never imagined she would have the opportunity to do. “I didn’t realize how tempting it would be,” she says. “It’s been really unexpected, amazing, but also hard to process.”

 
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