I was fortunate to join a small group of bloggers at Random House last week to welcome author Karen Thompson Walker for a Q & A session over lunch. This is a very powerful book (review is coming!) that details the “what if” of a world where the effects of a disaster cause the Earth’s rotation to slow down – so much so that gravity is unequal and the days and nights are lengthened to the point where the Earth may stop forever. Juxtaposed with this is the story of Julia, and 11-year-old girl who is coming into her own as a young woman, even as the world around her is ending.
After talking with us about some of her own inspirations in writing, including Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Karen then explained a bit about her own writing process. As she was working as full-time editor for another publishing company at the time, she would get up early and write for an hour before she got ready for work. She would also send off questions about the slowing of the Earth’s rotation and possible effects it might have on people as research to ensure that there was as much realism as possible in her fictional account.
There is a powerful voice in her young narrator, especially as she is able to comment on some of the events that occur in retrospect, noting that they were “the last time” that they saw the sun, the last time they saw certain individuals, etc. Despite this mournful tone we noted that the book does imply hope at points, as Julia is obviously looking back on events, suggestion some level of survival.
There are some interesting questions posed in the story, and the author wasted no time in asking us those same questions. If we were to encounter the same situation, would we prefer to stick to the expected order of time (clock timers) or would we transform ourselves to match the natural cycles of the Earth (real timers). I’ll confess that I would have a hard time of it; I’m a creature of routine, so not following the standard order of things would be tough for me!
While we all identified with the young protagonist, it was interesting to note that the bloggers all read the story differently – some as a young adult novel, with others reading it as adult literary fiction with a YA protagonist. In the end, however, it was agreed that this is a powerful book that resonates deeply within, and one that is well worth picking up for your summer reading list.
Interesting in seeing more about this event? Check out the Random House recap here (including a picture of me!)
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday morning, Julia and her family wake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. Set against this threat to normal life, The Age of Miracles maps the effects of catastrophes big and small on the lives of ordinary people, and in particular, one young girl. Extraordinary for its original concept, unforgettable characters, and the grace, elegance and beauty of Karen Thompson Walker’s prose, The Age of Miracles is a mesmerizing story of family turmoil, young love, and coming-of-age set against an upending of life as we know it.