Some people will hate The Age of Miracles before they’ve even read it. They will hate it because the author, a first-time novelist, reportedly got a million-dollar advance, and because a blurb on its cover gushes that it’s ”a love letter to the world,” and because the apocalyptic premise is so cinematic, the movie rights have already been optioned by River Road, and it’s easy to imagine Sofia Coppola directing it. Don’t listen to those people. All that hype sets up the wrong expectations, since this is meant to be a small book, one that’s lovely because of its simple writing and quiet moments. You might not love it immediately. But it will grow on you. Slowly. Definitively.
And that’s fitting. After all, the story is literally about slowing down. One morning, 11-year-old Julia wakes up to discover that because of a change in the earth’s rotation, days and nights are getting longer. Gravity feels different. Birds start to fall from the sky. While the government tries to maintain a 24-hour schedule, regardless of when the sun rises and sets, some people choose to ignore the clocks and form a new society based on ”real time.”
It’s a sci-fi book, but it isn’t, really. While the earth faces food shortages and other consequences of never-ending daylight and darkness, Julia’s concerned with other life-or-death questions. Like, when should she buy her first bra? How can she get the courage to talk to her crush, a shy skateboarder whose mother has cancer? And what can she do to keep her parents’ marriage from falling apart? Written in a voice that’s as familiar as your own junior-high diaries, Walker’s debut is a classic coming-of-age story, one that’s made all the more heartbreaking by the realization that Julia may never get the chance to come of age. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be a teenager: always feeling like the world is going to end, waiting for the day when life goes back to normal, until you grow up and discover that it never really does. A-