Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Slowing


The moments before she knew were forever preserved in her memory like an insect in amber.

It was Saturday morning. Eleven-year old Julia and her friend, Hanna, woke up in their sleeping bags, after camping in the living room all night. Julia fed her cats, while her parents read the newspaper and drank coffee. Her mother went out to buy bagels for breakfast, but quickly returned in a panic. Scientists had just revealed that the rotation of the earth was slowing.

Karen Thompson Walker spins her tale in matter-of-fact terms, with the horror of the situation gradually revealed in the details. Crops fail to survive the longer days and longer nights. Birds drop from the sky. People fall ill, first due to changes in gravity, then from radiation exposure.

Yet they continue to cope. Greenhouses, then radiation shelters spring up in backyards. Julia grows close to Seth, a classmate who is sensitive to the plight of beached whales and dying birds. The majority of people elect to follow the familiar 24 hour cycle, and outfit their homes with blackout curtains and bright lights to feign normality. "Real-timers," those who prefer to follow the lengthening cycles of light and dark, are considered outcasts, and many flee to communities in the desert.  

The Age of Miracles: A Novel, was difficult to read, but hard to put down. It is as much a coming-of-age novel as it is apocalyptic, and I finished with the hope that Julia’s miracle would come, before it was too late.

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