Tuesday, July 17, 2012

book review: The Age of Miracles

The basics: When the speed of the Earth's rotation slows, life changes for Julia, an eleven-year old living in Southern California.

My thoughts: I found the premise of this novel fascinating: what happens to our world when something so simple we rarely think about, the Earth's rotation, begins to change? It's a future I had not contemplated. As Thompson Walker writes in the novel's early pages:
"There was no footage to show on television, no burning buildings or broken bridges, no twisted metal or scorched earth, no houses sliding off slabs. No one was wounded. No one was dead. It was, at the beginning, a quite invisible catastrophe."
The change seems so minor: each day there is more daylight, followed by more nighttime. One of the initial casualties is time: do we stay on the same 24 hour clock when the middle of the night may come in the afternoon or stay on the clock of the sun? These issues were fascinating to me, and the very real-ness of the situation left me contemplating which side I would take.

As the novel progressed, however, I grew somewhat bored. I wanted more than anecdotes about what the news and our leaders were saying. Through Julia, the reader sees how differently her parents react to the slowing, but I longed for more. I wanted to dig deeper into detail, the experiences of more people, and the experiences of others around the country and the world. Julia mentions a few times how lucky they are to be in Southern California, but I wanted to know more about how others fared.

While it's clear from the beginning of the novel that Julia is telling the story from the future, the increasing foreshadowing led me to believe there was momentum building. Ultimately, I was disappointed by how underdeveloped the wonderful idea for this novel was. It read more like a children's or teen novel, which will appeal to some readers.

Favorite passage:  "But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different--unimagined, unprepared for, unknown."

The verdict: Despite a strong premise and strong writing, The Age of Miracles fell flat for me. As the sole narrator, Julia let me down. I cared less about the impact on her young life than I did on the world as a whole. I was left with more questions; I wanted Thompson Walker to explore more. The vision of the new reality was so narrow, and I wished for more world building.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 
Length: 289 pages
Publication date: June 26, 2012
Source: publisher

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22 comments:

  1. Oh no, too bad this one was disappointing. I do have a copy. Hope u r having a good week.

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    1. Diane, you may like it more than I did. Ultimately, I found it to be too much coming of age and not enough world building, but some have really loved it!

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  2. I've seen mixed reviews of this one, and most seem to agree that the main problem with the novel is the narration. I'm still planning on reading this one, but I'm glad I've seen honest reviews like yours first, so that I don't go into it with extra-high expectations.

    Thanks!

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    1. Rayna, I think it's certainly worth reading, and I think Karen Thompson Wallace is one to watch. While I read it, I grew a little bored, but I still enjoyed the reading experience. Once I finished, however, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how disappointed I was in several aspects.

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  3. I definitely think I would want more information as well, and though what you've described does sound intriguing and unique, I can imagine that this one might not be for me. Thanks for your very thoughtful and extremely helpful review. I think this is something that my husband might enjoy, but it will probably be one that I skip.

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    1. Thanks, Zibilee. I'm certainly glad I read it because the premise was so intriguing and the writing quite good, but it's not one I can wholeheartedly recommend.

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  4. I'm on the tour for this and will be starting next week -- I'm glad I read your review as it will temper my expectations. The premise had me almost giddy -- I love disaster flicks and something subtle like this is just so fascinating -- so knowing the story remains in the 11-year old psyche is good to know.

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    1. Audra, I'll be quite curious to see how you rate this book! I was really excited for it too, and I hate to think my expectations dampened what should have been a fascinating book.

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  5. I read about half of this and was intrigued, but then I got bored too and I just haven't gone back to it! I feel like I should but there is another part of me that is really trying to take all the pressure away from reading that says "eh, just forget it".

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    1. I thought about abandoning this one too, or at least skimming to see what happened. It was short enough I decided to finish, but it was disappointing. Oh well.

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  6. Your reaction is pretty much the same as mine. I wanted more of what was happening to the world as a whole and less of Julia!

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    1. Yes! I'm almost hoping she'll write a companion novel from a different point of view to more fully explore the situation!

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  7. The premise does sound so interesting but I wish perhaps it had been told by someone older or the idea of the slowing was explored more. I've read other reviews that are less than thrilled with this. Too bad … I like the idea about the different times to follow.

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    1. It really read like a children's or young adult novel to me. The writing was great, but the inner workings of an 11-year old weren't terribly fascinating.

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  8. The more I read about this one the more I think it's probably not for me. Boo! The premise was so good, too.

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    1. Andi, I won't guess how you'd react to this one, but I suspect you might grow bored as I did. It is too bad.

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  9. I'm starting to hear more and more people saying they were disappointed in this one. Bummer, since it does have a good premise.

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    1. Jill, I am still bummed. I really wanted to like this one. Boo.

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  10. I agree entirely. The premise is so good that it makes you excuse some issues while you're reading it, but you get to the end and it feels like nothing was really explored or developed - which is too bad because it really is a very intriguing idea.

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    1. Yes! I got to the end and said, "Wait. That was the big revelation that was foreshadowed?." It was just a letdown. I wanted more.

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  11. Hmm, that's disappointing. Sounds like Thompson Walker missed out on a golden opportunity here.

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    1. I think so, but perhaps if I was expecting a coming of age novel, it would have worked better for me.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!