Entrants were asked to answer one of the following questions about The Age of Miracles for their review:
Why is there so much animosity between the clock-timers and real-timers? Which would you prefer and why?
How do you feel about the way the book ends? What do you think lies ahead for Julia, for her parents, and for the world?
Megan Smith, Batavia
I think there is so much animosity between the clock-timers and the real-timers because one side thinks that nothing is wrong and the other side is scared is following the governments rules. If I was living in Julia’s time I would prefer to be a real-timer. I would prefer to be a real-timer even though I would lose a lot of friends. I can relate to Julia because we are the same age and in the same grade and if my best friend moved because of the slowing I can guarantee you I would be feeling the same way Julia felt. And I would definitely not want to go to bed when it is still light out!
Susan Hengelsberg, Perry
People panic at the lengthening days – they empty stores, “shelves sucked clean like chicken bones,” shout doomsday on the streets, clog freeways wanting to move, but where? No wonder, when the governments decide to enforce 24-hour clock time as the standard to authority and regimentation because they have lives to lead that depend on time. They distrust anyone who steps out of this mold, call them hippies and worse, and even cause harm to their property. Real-timers, those who follow the sun, distrust the rest because they think “clock time is just another way for society to keep us numb.” While they carry on the ages-old battles of who is right, days keep growing, the world keeps dying. I would start as a real-timer because I feel a part of Nature, but would give it up when days/nights became too long to bear.
Peggy Lamb, Oakfield
Two weeks passed before the President decided it would be best to go on “clock time.” The animosity between the two groups started immediately because the “real timers” resented anyone telling them what they had to do. The extreme fringe of this group started their own compounds to live with other like-minded people. This did not work out. The settlements attracted people who were using the situation to stop trying to find their place in the “real” world.
The “clock time” people were following the path of least resistance. The majority of the people were trying to make the best of a bad situation. While the adjustment would be difficult, they would try to make the changes necessary. I would do the same.
Loren Penman, Batavia
How much time on Earth do any of us really have? Would Julia’s life have been significantly different in the absence of the slowing?
In spite of terrifying environmental developments – an amidst events that happen to families even without natural disasters – Julia, Joel and Helen seem to live by math teacher Mrs. Pinsky’s adage: “The only thing you have to do in this life is die. Everything else is a choice.” I feel confident that Juliawill become a doctor, that Joel will continue to work at the hospital, and that Helen will find another way to use her teaching background.
The ending of The Age of Miracles captures the same uncertainty of our future and certainly of our demise that exists without the imminent destruction of the planet. Walker’s universal themes of coming-of-age, love and loss, loyalty and betrayal make her book relevant and timeless.
Liz Saleh, Batavia
The “unending” of the story, its openness to the possibilities of the “unimagined, the unprepared for, the unknown” is consistent with the theme throughout the book. The author indicates that we cannot predict or control our life – “It is never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass, it is the ones you don’t expect at all”. The earth is still deteriorating at the end of the novel; however, there is still hope. Though the title of the novel, “The Age of Miracles” refers to adolescence, it can also refer to the time of the “slowing”. Karen Thompson Walker novel ends the only way that makes sense, open ended and a little hopeful. She is still collecting stories about unlikely returns and plans to be a doctor. Hopefully the “unimagined’ happens or an unknown solution is found and Julia, her parents and the world survive.
Joseph Langen, LeRoy
Karen ends the book with a clear indication that Earth’s entropy will continue. I hated to see Julia end up without the one person with whom she resonated. Yet her relationship with Seth left her with confidence in herself and strength to handle whatever comes next which she did not have at the beginning of the story. In my opinion she became the strongest person in her family and, despite her age, the one who could best deal with the conflicting agendas of those looking for the structure of clock time and those trying to live in harmony with earth’s changing rhythms. My hope would be that Julia and her parents would be able to make the best of declining hospitality for life on earth. I would hope that they might be chosen as part of the colony to inhabit the far flung planet referred to in the story.