a little roundup of things that inspired me this week
The Age of Miracles
There is so much we take for granted in our lives, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day. Perhaps the most significant is that no matter how heavy a burden we carry, tomorrow the sun will rise on a new day. But what would happen if suddenly that were not true? What if the most basic of all acceptances—that the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours—were altered?
It’s the premise of the most engrossing book I’ve read in a long time, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. The book places the coming-of-age story of 11-year-old Julia against the backdrop of an inexplicable slowing of the earth’s rotation. The result is a world in which nothing is predictable, everything is unbalanced.
I love the story’s open:
We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it.
We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath the skin. We were distracted back then by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets of distant countries. Hurricans came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that those hours, too, weren’t still pooling into days, each the same fixed length known to every human being.
But there were those who would later claim to have recognized the disaster before the rest of us did. These were the night workers, the graveyard shifters, the stockers of shelves, and the loaders of ships, the drivers of big-rig trucks, or else they were the bearers of different burdens: the sleepless and the troubled and the sick. These people were accustomed to waiting out the nights. Through bloodshot eyes, a few did detect a certain persistence of darkness on the mornings leading up to the news, but each mistook it for the private misperception of a lonely, rattled mind.
On the sixth of October, the experts went public. This, of course, is the day we all remember. There’d been a change, they said, a slowing, and that’s what we called it from then on: the slowing.
I am not a science fiction fan, so to speak. And this is not science fiction. It’s a story about a regular family, set in our familiar world, amid circumstances that feel terrifyingly possible.
(And let me note this is Karen Thompson Walker’s first novel. Doesn’t that make it even more remarkable? Why are so many of my favorite books debut novels? Fascinating.)
Happy weekend. Happy reading!