8 reviews

The Age of Miracles: A Novel
by Karen Thompson Walker

Published: 2013-01-15
Paperback : 304 pages
52 members reading this now
67 clubs reading this now
19 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 8 members

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 ...

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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 and unforgettable debut novel about coming of age set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.
Maybe everything that happened to me and to 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.”
Spellbinding, haunting, The Age of Miracles is a beautiful novel of catastrophe and survival, growth and change, the story of Julia and her family as they struggle to live in an extraordinary time. On an ordinary Saturday, Julia awakes to discover that something has happened to the rotation of the earth. The days and nights are growing longer and longer, gravity is affected, the birds, the tides, human behavior and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray. In a world of danger and loss, Julia faces surprising developments in herself, and her personal world—divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by Hannah and other friends, the vulnerability of first love, a sense of isolation, and a rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking story of people finding ways to go on, in an ever-evolving world.
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
Don’t miss the exclusive conversation between Karen Thompson Walker and Karen Russell at the back of the book.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


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Discussion Questions

1. As readers, why do you think we’re drawn to stories about the end of the world? What special pleasures do these kinds of narratives offer? And how do you think this element works in The Age of Miracles?

2. Julia is an only child. How does this fact affect who she is and how she sees the world? How would her experience of the slowing be different if she had a sibling? How would her experience of middle school be different?

3. How much do you think the slowing alters Julia’s experience of adolescence? If the slowing had never happened, in what ways would her childhood have been different? In what ways would it have been the same?

4. Julia’s parents’ marriage becomes increasingly strained over the course of the book. Why do you think they stay together? Do you think it’s the right choice? How much do you think Julia’s mother does or does not know about Sylvia?

5. Julia’s father tells several crucial lies. Discuss these lies and consider which ones, if any, are justified and which ones are not. Is lying ever the right thing to do? If so, when?

6. How would the book change if it were narrated by Julia’s mother? What if it were narrated by Julia’s father? Or her grandfather?

7. Why do you think Julia is so drawn to Seth? Why do you think he is drawn to her?

8. Did you identify more with the clock-timers or with the real-timers? Which would you be and why?

9. The slowing affects the whole planet, but the book is set in southern California. How does the setting affect the book? How important is it that the story takes place in California?

10. How do you feel about the way the book ends? What do you think lies ahead for Julia, for her parents and for the world?

11. The slowing throws the natural world into disarray. Plants and animals die and there are changes in the weather. Did this book make you think about the threats that face our own natural world? Do you think the book has something to say about climate change?

12. If you woke up tomorrow to the news that the rotation of the earth had significantly slowed, how do you think you would respond? What is the first thing you would do?

Suggested by Members

Would you keep with the NEW time schedule, or the old?
We have been seeing news about people that have been stock piling for the "end" of the world, this book is LITERALLY the end of normal existence as we know it. Would you begin to stock pile as well?
What do you think about the father, and what he did to his family (especially during these circumstances)
by aimee.the.great (see profile) 11/12/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A Conversation with Karen Thompson Walker

What inspired you to write a story about the earth's rotation slowing?

I got the idea from a newspaper article. Shortly after the 2004 Indonesian earthquake, I read that the earthquake had affected the rotation of the earth, shortening the length of our 24-hour day. Even though the change was extremely slight—only a few microseconds—I found the idea incredibly haunting. It was unsettling to discover that something we take for granted—the daily rising and the setting of our sun—was actually in flux. I couldn't help wondering what would have happened if the change had been larger. That's when I began to write this story.

How does the slowing and the events that happen during it affect the main character, 12-year-old Julia?

For Julia, the slowing and its consequences complicate and magnify all the small-scale disasters of growing up. Julia loses her best friend when her friend's family joins extended relatives in Utah to wait for what they think will be the end of the world. Julia's mother begins to suffer from a mysterious illness known as gravity syndrome, and her father becomes increasingly withdrawn. But the looming threat of the slowing also intensifies Julia's small joys, especially when she begins to form a close bond with a boy who is as isolated as she is. As I wrote this book, I discovered that one of the hidden pleasures of apocalyptic stories is the surprising way they focus attention on ordinary life. When everyday life is in peril, everyday life begins to seem especially meaningful.

Why did you decide to title the book The Age of Miracles?

I chose The Age of Miracles as a title because the book is about a time when events that previously seemed impossible suddenly become possible. I wanted the title to refer to not only the strange era of "the slowing," but also to another extraordinary era: adolescence. For Julia, both of these ages are unfolding at once, one every bit as astonishing as the other.

You were working as an editor at a publishing house while you wrote this book. How did you find the time to write?

It was definitely a challenge. I wrote this book in the mornings before I went to work. I tried to write for about an hour each day, but there were plenty of mornings when I slept late or when I had to be at work early. Some days I wrote only one sentence, just in my head, as I walked from my apartment to the subway. Sometimes I felt my progress was frustratingly slow, but working as an editor also made me a better writer, so I'm very grateful for that.

Who have you discovered lately?

As an editor, I read Charlotte Rogan's amazing debut novel, The Lifeboat, [Also a Summer 2012 Discover selection. -Ed.] when it was still in manuscript. I read it in one night, and I really wanted my company to publish it, but we lost it to another house. It's such a wonderful combination of beautiful writing and suspenseful storytelling.

Some of my other recent favorites are Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro [Whose third novel, The Remains of the Day, was a discover selection in 1990. -Ed.], In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick and The Vagrants by Yiyun Li.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "it's a miracle that I got through it"by bookmobile (see profile) 01/26/16

This book is slow, wordy and boring. Life is too short. Don't waste your time.

  "The Age of Miracles"by LMCamp (see profile) 07/14/13

Extremely interesting, well written and absolutely thought provoking. The story gave our club a lot to discuss.

  "age of Miracles"by grannyoswald (see profile) 11/16/12

  "EZ Readers"by mjferm (see profile) 11/15/12

More of a coming of age book for the main character. It did make you think of the possiblity of "the slowing" and realize what we have today. Discussion concluded early with general concession of it... (read more)

  "It's not really futuristic or sci-fi."by aimee.the.great (see profile) 11/12/12

What if scientists found out that days were last a little longer. What would that mean for the environment, work work, for the world? The story is told by coming of age girl whose world is coming undone,... (read more)

  "Age of Miracles"by Neyly (see profile) 10/06/12

Good book for club discussions: engages the reader and opens many avenues for discussion. That said, book clubs should note that the book has an underlying sadness that the reader can't escape, any more... (read more)

  "Age of miracles"by Eunniewha (see profile) 10/01/12

  "The Age of Miracles"by TonyaB (see profile) 09/26/12

  "Well worth the time--entralling"by bafeuer (see profile) 09/16/12

I loved this book. From the moment I read a sample on my Kindle, I knew I wanted to read it. A sense of foreboding, but one that compelled me forward. It's her 1st novel, and I was amazed. The protagonist... (read more)

  "A YA book for adults?"by [email protected] (see profile) 05/21/12

As a former 4 - 12 school librarian I was intrigued by this novel that follows a middle schooler - Julia - and how the changes, both internal (she is growing up) and external (the world's rotation is slowing... (read more)

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