Unlike many of its counter-parts, The Age of Miracles, is a dystopian science-fiction story that does not contain any sudden, dramatic events that change the lives of the characters in the story overnight. The change that leads to the unraveling of society is this novel — called The Slowing — is so small, so gradual, so invisible, that no one even notices when it begins and even after it is detected, many refuse to believe it is real.
Our narrator is eleven year old Julia who catalogs all of the catastrophic global events that unfold during the two years of the story, as well as her own smaller personal problems. Even though The Slowing is happening on a massive global — even galaxy-wide — scale, Julia is still a adolescent girl who must experience them at the same time she must grapple with everyday problems with loneliness, bullying, and first crushes.
The phenomenon of The Slowing is the, at first, imperceptible slowing of the earth in its rotation. When scientists first recognize that is it taking a few seconds longer for the earth to turn from one day to the next, the problem is so small it seem inconsequential. The problem promptly picks up speed and within a few weeks the days are 30 minutes longer; then in just a few more weeks the days are hours longer than the previous 24. The Slowing is causes problems at first that seem manageable: how to sync up clocks with the new, longer days so that businesses and governments can run as usual. As the problem (and the length of days) grow, all living things on earth struggle to adapt. Crops and plants struggle with rising hours of sunlight (and the higher temperatures this brings) and the cold of the longer nights. Birds fall from the sky as the increasing effects of gravity make flying impossible. And people — who are delicately in tune with the day/night cycles, the tides, the seasons, and the weather — begin to suffer from illnesses caused by being out of sync.
The stress of these global problems begins to effect everyone on earth, including Julia and her parents, as well as their neighbors and friends. Cults spring up, religious groups move to large communities in rural areas, and small groups who are trying to live in sync with the new length of the day/night begin to split off from their “on clock” counterparts: all of these create “us” versus “them” tensions.
Julia calmly reports on the problems in her own house and those she witnesses outside the window. She sees her mother struggle with symptoms of strange illnesses, sees her best friend withdraw to a Mormons-only community, and her parents turn on a neighbor who refuses to stay ” on clock.” All of these massive and complex problems do not prevent the smaller problems of puberty and adolescence that also plague her as she and her parents try to continue to live a normal life…while they can.
The Age of Miracles surprised me with how riveting it remained throughout given its slow, deliberate, unhurried pace. It proved to be unique in every way and a delight to read.