Shoppers were all over the Turnrow 20 this weekend. The best seller of the bunch was Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel, The Age of Miracles, which rode into bookstores last week on a wave of reader enthusiasm and buzz for the author's enormous advance. Gossip aside, we found Walker's debut ideal summer reading, a cross between the popular genres of apocalpytic fiction and coming-of-age drama, a novel brilliantly balanced in reality and speculation.
On a day like any other, 11-year-old Julia finds that the world has been drastically altered. The Earth's rotation has slowed. Scientists don't know why, only that further complications will arise. As the days grow longer, time loses all meaning. The media erupts in nonstop coverage, governments break down in an awkward slow grind, and the world explodes into frenzy.
But even the end of the world becomes old news as the small events of daily life begin to eclipse the slow-motion, large-scale disaster. Julia, working her way through middle school, continues to cope with the complicated relationships around her, and it's these conflicts, rather than the mysteries of the planet's demise, that begin to drive the book. As the characters take new stock of their lives, however uncertain, the novel becomes a very thoughtful and captivating story about how people continue in the face of adversity.
This is not the impenetrable doomsday dark of McCarthy's The Road, but more like a poetic, sun-going-down darkness that readers of Jonathan Safran Foer, Aimee Bender and Karen Russell will enjoy. Even young fans of The Hunger Games will find in The Age of Miracles a quieter but no less tense story of a world turned upside down.