I zoomed through The Age of Miracles in a couple of days, and I am, in fact, in love with it. The writing is flawless, thanks to the fact that the author was an editor prior to writing this, her debut novel. The characters are interesting though ordinary, and the plot balances a unique situation with traditional literary devices in the most seamless, stunning way.
The story revolves around pre-adolescent Julia, as she navigates the difficulties of her time: altered alliances between friends, new romantic feelings, and her parents. Then one day it’s announced that the earth’s rotation has begun to slow. Every day stretches longer, with no indication that the new pattern will cease. The world is not necessarily ending – it’s simply changing in a drastically life-altering way for all of humanity.
The great new societal issue becomes whether to live by the old 24-hour clock, or to live by the light of the natural day. This creates surprisingly visceral reactions between parties. Julia’s family sticks with the majority still living on 24-hour time, which means they’re eventually going to sleep at dawn, and eating lunch in the dead of night. Ocean tides unravel from their cycle with the moon; whales beach themselves, birds fall from the sky. Soon, there rise serious questions like how to continue the world’s food supply when plants are not getting proper sunlight. Sales of non-perishables, greenhouses, and black-out curtains go way up, while attendance at jobs and schools dip to all-time lows. Doomsayers warn of imminent ruin. Through it all, Julia deftly observes the effects this has on the people around her – namely, her relationships with them.
Unfortunately I have to end with a disclaimer: this is soft science-fiction. If you’re looking for reasons or answers, or actual-factual hard science predictions about “what would happen if”, this is not the book for you. Walker’s biggest critics are grumbling that she glossed over the “science” portion of this story altogether. Personally I can see where she took liberties, but on the whole I’m okay with that. So, if you’re like me and you don’t realllly care about science, if you’re always looking for a new twist on the typical coming of age, if you revel in the language of a novel, look no further. I’d tell you more about what happens, but the innocent beauty of this story is in how it unfolds.