Sunday, 8 February 2015

Ruby Reviews The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I picked up this hardback after Mrs R had left it lying around. Her book club has been going through a Misery Lit phase (like forever) and she had chosen The Age of Miracles as a little light relief. I noticed that she fairly flew through the book and thought it must be lightweight, but something piqued my interest – probably the cover. I read the blurb and gave it a go.

Well, several exhausted days later I’m glad that I’ve finished reading this book. Reviewers on Amazon variously describe it as a coming of age novel or YA. Genre schmenre, this book freaked me out. The premise of uncontrollable changes to planet Earth is not unique, but the way it was handled captivated me. The narrator is a young girl who is a bit of an ugly duckling. She describes the slowing of the Earth’s rotation and the multitude of impacts it has on everyday life. Through it all she remains fixated on a boy around whom her world revolves. The changes to the Earth are gradual, not apocalyptic, although there are disastrous consequences for the other animals with which we share the planet. More central to the story are the social divisions and the impact of extended daylight and darkness hours upon characters and relationships.

It was only on day three of reading this book (my free reading time is at breakfast and lunch) that I realised what it was doing to me. I was watching the early morning sky as dawn broke in winter Ireland and wondering if it was a few minutes later than the previous day, although we’re heading into spring and the day should be gaining on the night. Then, as I let the dog out before bed, it seemed that the day had lengthened. In the mornings I thought my sleep had been extended, my circadian rhythms challenged. I was living through the slowing of the Earth’s revolution. If by Bread kept playing in my head. If the world should stop revolving, spinning slowly down to die, then I did want to spend it with my wife and family. I wouldn’t desert them: as all the stars went out, one by one, we would simply fly away.

When the book was done I breathed a sigh of escape and could reflect upon the distorted behaviour of those characters in The Age of Miracles as they dealt with the inevitable. More music, this time Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden, flooded my head. Faced with “The Slowing” would we be able to keep our act together? People sometimes ask what you would do if you had three minutes to live. Or one last day? What if you knew the end was coming but you didn’t know when? It would be gradual and creeping.

I highly recommend The Age of Miracles. If you’re looking for planet-splitting, cataclysmic apocalyptic disaster then this isn’t the book for you. If you’re interested in an honest and guileless perspective on what people really value and how to decide the important things in life for however long we have left on this Earth, then this is a thought-provoking read.