Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Can you believe I'm reviewing a Hot Off The Shelves New Release??  Maybe this occurrence isn't as crazy-rare as it feels, but it does feel to me like this is the first new release I've read in a while (pls excuse my exuberance).

Even if you've had your head buried in the sand (like me) you've likely heard of this book.  Which explains my disappointment when I heard it was going to be featured in the next Indiespensable shipment (ugh, hype and all that jazz.)  Fortunately, those kind folks did an incredible job putting together a fun package - the best one recently - beautiful hardback, purty dust jacket, lovely slipcase, "survival" goodies.  Okay, maybe I wasn't miffed after all.

And now, on with the book, right? The premise is interesting: a California girl and her family try to adjust to the one global calamity they had never considered, as the earth's rotation begins to slow.  Sounds science-fictiony, yet - as my husband declared - The Book Is Way Too Short To Explain Everything...it's really more about the people, how they adjust and react.  Sounds like my sort of thing after all!

There was a lot that I enjoyed about this book.  I found the writing to be enjoyable, the premise piqued my interest throughout the book.  However, there were a lot of little things that bugged me, making this more of an "enjoyable reading experience" rather than a "wonderful book".   Let's bullet-point this:
  • The ages of the kids seemed incompatible with their behavior.  These were 11 year-old kids acting like 14 year-olds (parties & other behavior) and I had to keep reminding myself of their ages. (And before you say that's how it is now and declare me out of touch with reality, keep in mind that I have an 8, 11, 13, and 16 year old and we live Southern California.  I should be able to identify.)
  • As if California didn't already have enough stereotypes...luckily the "We Californians..." sentences began to thin out as the book went on because they were about to ruin the book for me.   Really.  As a native Californian who has felt only 2 real earthquakes and rarely eats outside, I could rant about this for pages.  It's a big, diverse state, making generalities a little silly.
    • "We were Californians and thus accustomed to the motions of the earth. [...] But we Californians were no more prepared for this particular calamity than those who had built their homes on more stable ground." 
    • "This was California--almost everyone had migrated here from someplace else." 
    • "This was California--we ate outside in every season."
  • People's motivations seemed non-existent or unimportant.  Julia didn't seem all too upset when upsetting things happened, and why the "clock-time" people despised the "real-time" people was never really shown.  So, not only did people react differently than I would have thought, but there wasn't any real explanation showing why this might be.
  • Way too many blatant foreshadowing sentences for such a mellow ending.  Tons of "I would learn later" and "We didn't know then" or "It was the last time" sorts of comments that ended up not really pointing to anything in particular.
Despite all those complaints, I really did enjoy reading the book.  I liked that it didn't have a super tidy ending.  I can't help thinking that the hype is do more to the politically-correct timing of the global disaster theme than anything else, but the ease of reading and the interesting story were enough to overshadow the lack of character development and other minor irritations for me.  And besides, it's a treat to look at.  That's got to count for something, right?

11 comments:

  1. I am so in agreement with your criticisms of this book. I read it for TLC Book Tours, and my review isn't up yet, so I was a little disappointed to find that it was going to be the Indiespensible selection (since I had already read it and all). However, the book is physically beautiful and I loved the stuff that came with it. I also did like lots of things about the read, but I was really distracted by the discrepancy between the kid's ages and their behavior.

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    1. Glad to hear that others had a similar experience! And dark and sultry/sleek and alluring 11 year-olds?? Goodness!

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  2. The thing I liked best about this book is the stuff that came with it from Indiespensible. Is that awful?

    I think my main criticism leveled at the book, which I found to be pretty good but not nearly worthy of the critical acclaim or financial remuneration the author received, was that at the end, when she's in her, what? 30s? 20s? is that there was no acknowledging how impossible a world it would be to live in. If the days lengthened to more than 48 hours each during the months in which the novel takes place, are we supposed to extrapolate that the length of a day by the time she's in her 20s is the equivalent to a month? How are humans surviving in those conditions?

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    1. Sometimes a book makes itself too easy to pick apart...but I have to wonder, with such a high level of production, why some of these issues weren't addressed more fully? I agree about that ending. It left me wondering how everyone was still surviving.

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  3. This is one I'm interested to try, but I'll attempt not to let the hype get to me too much. The things that bugged you will likely bug me, so I'll save it when I need something light and quick.

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    1. It did go super quick, Andi, which is nice because then the irritating things pass quicker. :)

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  4. I really was not a fan of it so I appreciate your honest take. So many have raved about this one and I just don't get why.

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    1. Ti, I read your review on GR and agreed with everything you said. Especially about CA - everybody i So Cal stayed calm? What?? Yeah right. Can you imagine the freeways?

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  5. Hi Melody,

    Thanks for your review. I haven't read Age of Miracles yet, and I've been hemming and hawing because it's not exactly a cheap book to buy. I typically don't drop $13 for a Kindle book if I'm not going to read it over and over again - I like to get my money's worth!

    The irritating things you pointed out have been echoed in other reviews, which does make me wary. I think it's the type of book that I'd like to read, but perhaps not pay for. That might sound terrible. I entered a giveaway to win a copy (on Freebooksy - I'll put the link to the giveaway at the bottom). If I don't win, I'll get it from the library!

    Thanks for your insight - probably saved me from wishing I hadn't spent $13.

    Here's the giveaway-- http://www.freebooksy.com/free-book-giveaways/2012/7/8/giveaway-the-age-of-miracles-by-karen-thompson-walker.html

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    1. Emily, good luck with the giveaway...hope you win! If a book is free you're at least sure to get your money's worth, right? ;) It was enjoyable, but if it was a film I'd say wait for the rental. :)

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    2. Haha! Good analogy!

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