The hype machine would have you believe that this debut novel is “luminous”, “haunting” and “unforgettable”. Having recently been burned by Tigers In Red Weather, I approached with caution on that score. But the hype machine was right. Hot damn this was an absolute stunner of a book.
Narrated by 11 year old Julia, Miracles tells the story of what happened when the world started slowing down. Periods of light and dark lengthen, no longer being synonymous with night and day. When adherence to the 24 hour clock is enforced, society begins to fracture along the lines of those who want to live on “real time” and those sticking to “clock time”. Gravity becomes heavier, tides lower and higher than before. The slower the earth turns, the more the earth suffers. Crops fail, magnetic fields weaken, radiation in the atmosphere increases, people start to suffer from what is referred to as The Syndrome.
Two things set this book apart. The first is how simple an idea that is and how well Walker evokes it. The second thing is how it’s not really the main focus of the book. Julia is 11 years old, she goes to school, she has crushes on boys, falls out with her best friend, frets over being socially awkward, has parents who fight, all the things 11 year olds have to deal with. It just so happens she’s dealing with it all while the physical world marches ever closer to a total meltdown.
Technically, the Julia narrating the book is in her mid 20’s, looking back on her 11th year as it was the first year of The Slowing. Whichever way you look at it, Walker captures it all pretty much perfectly. There’s a LOT of foreshadowing in the book and somehow all of that works too. When talking about the colour of the car her mother is driving, Julia notes that “the police report would later describe it as blue”. Very easy to overdo that kind of conceit, I always think. It works here so well though. And when, towards the end, Julia tells us that “sometimes the saddest stories can be told in the fewest words”, well, she is not messing around, you guys. Glorious stuff.