Sunday, July 1, 2012

Wonderful debut fiction

There's always a thrill in discovering new talent. You pick up a book, have no expectations whatsoever, and end up loving the work. Well, that's not exactly the case between me and Karen Thompson Walker. I've heard so much about this author and how good her debut novel is. So I thought it's time to check out the hype.

Fortunately, the hype is more than merited! Walker's novel, The Age of Miracles, is a wonderful read. It's one of the best coming-of-age stories I've read recently, and it's both heartbreaking and hopeful.

The narrator is 11-year-old Julia, an only child who is one very introspective individual. One day, for reasons not really specified in the novel, the earth's spin has slowed down, resulting in cataclysmic changes in nature and in the way people go about their daily lives. It is this slowing that provides the device for Julia to tell her story.

Oh no, The Age of Miracles isn't sci-fi. The focus here is not on the changes to the earth's weather systems, or the eventual disruption of the food chain because of the extinction of plants, or the circadian rhythms of the animal kingdom. It's still about Julia and her family. Julia's dad is shown here as a sympathetic character, even though Julia finds out that he's been having a relationship with their next door neighbor, the piano teacher. Julia's mother embodies what happens to a person in this weird times, one who experiences the "syndrome," an illness brought about by the slowing. She is oftentimes hysterical and unstable.

Julia, despite her age, tries her best to cope with her parents' seemingly dwindling relationship, but it is through her that her parents work things out. She also has her first romantic relationship with a boy from school. Be prepared though for how this relationship would end. It just broke my heart when I read that part.

There's a lot of people that we encounter through Julia's eyes. There's her eccentric grandfather who collects things and is obsessed with cataloging them for the end times. There are the kids at her school, who provide the reader with the effects of the slowing among people Julia's age. There's her piano teacher who is one of those people who continues to stick to "real time," sleeping by night and going about through the day, even though the hours of the days and nights continue to increase. Through Julia's family, we see how people cope with this strange phenomena by following the government's orders of "clock time."

The Age of Miracles has a very beautifully controlled narrative. And it seems that Walker certainly possesses the writing talent. I'm guessing it has something to do with her being an editor of Simon & Schuster, having been exposed to different writing styles, and learning to identify what works with readers. Her debut novel is an auspicious one, and it's a work that definitely earned all the positive word-of-mouth.

So, dear reader, I now have another author who's going to be under my radar. Here's to reading more debut fiction and discovering new talent.

Read this book if:

  1. You love debut fiction.
  2. You're in the mood for a good coming-of-age novel.
  3. You've always been curious about what would happen should our planet slow down on its spin.


Jack said...

Great! I love coming-of-age stories; takes me back. Now here's something else I have to carefully consider for my TBR.

Damned book bloggers!

Peter S. said...

Yes, we all love these stories, Jack.

And I am picturing you saying that last line of yours. Hehehehe.

Kaz said...

You're so funy Jack!

Great review Peter - and like Jack, I will have to look at adding this one to my TBR pile. As yuou know, I love a good YA piece that's well crafted.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Kaz! You'll be surprised to find out that this isn't YA at all!

Kaz said...

Oh really? OK, now I'm properly intrigued. Title and author duly noted for next book shop visit!!!

Peter S. said...

Tell us what you think of this novel, Kaz, if you do decide to read it.

f. jordan said...

This would be the nth glowing review for this book that I've read.

Peter S. said...

Hi, f. jordan! Hehehehe. I love it! It's the kind of book that a lot of people would love.

Anonymous said...

I would read this book solely for your reason number 3. Even though it isn't sci-fi and I won't be able to read about the loss of earth's magnetic field due to the slow rotation resulting in a slow damnation of our planet, the take on the social aspect of this "slow-mo earth" seems interesting. (I can be a total nerd sometimes, sorry haha). Thanks for this review!

Peter S. said...

We love nerds, even total nerds!