Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Age of MiraclesThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those unassuming books that sneaks up on you and without realising it you've got only 4 chapters left.

After reading the premise I wasn't sure what to expect. My first thought was 'disaster movie'. The big action, bigger explosions race against time to save the world type bonanza. What I got however, was something rather different. The focus of the story it not the disaster itself. It's about the people that are living through it, one family in particular.

What really struck me was that, once the 'invisible catastrophe' had stuck, people just carried on. People went to work, kids went to school. The world didn't descend into chaos. I am an avid reader of dystopian fiction where, after some sort of devastating event, the world collapses, democracy fails, people panic, viruses spread. Yet here, there's an almost calm. Yes there's panic with each new and disturbing effect of 'the slowing', but there is still a sense of normalcy. As if, if we stopped doing all the things we usually do, that's when the world falls apart. And this is what is so brilliant about this book, what the author has done so well. Regardless of your opinions of human beings as a species, and though there is nothing out there really to compare us to, you cannot deny we have an amazing ability to adapt and to develop and to survive. That's what the author captures so well in her book. That no matter how many minutes the days are growing by, no matter how 'the slowing' is dividing a population, killing crops etc, people keep going.

In Julia, we have woman retelling her story of what it was like in those first few months when the world was beginning to change. She is going through 'the age of miracles', that time in a kids life when they start changing, start noticing things and thinking differently. So not only is she in a tumultuous time in her young life, worrying about the weird things happening to her body, her friends, boys, she has do it all with the uncertainty of whether or not she, or the rest of humanity, is going to get a future. There are a lot of dramas that unfold. Occurrences that happen in normal every day life, yet throughout Julia keeps asking herself, 'would these things be happening if the world were not changing'. How different would her life be if there wasn't this huge, looming shadow hanging over them all? You find yourself being drawn into Julia's life, captivating in it's seeming mundanity, yet as always the threat of the unknown hovering like a bad smell. The mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary makes for an intriguing and compelling mix. It lulls you to the extent that if it wasn't for the reminders of how the world was changing, you would forget that anything momentous and potentially disastrous was happening. And that's what was so good. The author didn't make the disaster the star of the show, rather it took on a more supporting role. Though that being said, at the same time during the narrative, we would be following Julia as she drifted through another day of school, an awkward girl shy and unsure, when we would get a sudden and shocking reminder of the state of the planet. Yet it never felt messy, two different styles at war with each other. The author pulled them together beautifully, the stark reality all the more powerful when settled amongst the living of every days lives.

This truly is a marvel of a novel. It's not brash or loud. It doesn't try to shock you in ways that are over the top and flashy. What it does is show you a normal family living through unimaginable circumstances, and that all the preparation in the world can't prepare you for everything.

What is really the most remarkable thing of all though is that not only did I read it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as usually I avoid disaster stories like the plague, as in the majority of cases they scare me shitless, because these things could actually frickin' happen people!!!!

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great review. I'm looking forward to this book. The concept sounds really interesting.