The Age of Miracles


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.

1) First and foremost, give it some thought…What if the earth slowed or if global warming and ozone depletions continued? What if we use up all our natural resources? How would we fare as humans on earth? Does this story capture what you'd expect? If not, what more do yu think could happen?

2) And, what about what the narrator says at the end of chapter 3 (pg 29), “Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different – unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.” What are our unknowns and, in this story, did what the writer included surprise you?

3) In the first lines, the narrator says, “We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it.” And in the following paragraph says, “But there were those who would later claim to have recognized the disaster before the rest of us did. These were the night workers…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.” How did this set the situation up for you? What were your expectations? And, as in real life, doesn’t it always seem that someone or some group of people or professions, do recognize something almost imperceptible before others do and we doubt them as much as they doubt themselves?

4) A significant question appears in, “How long can major crops survive without the light of the sun?” (pg 21) Give it some discussion and include cause and effect.

5) Julia asks, (pg 40) “And who knows how fast a second-guess can travel? Who has ever measured the exact speed of regret?” Here she is talking about the drag of a hand on a knife or a finger on a trigger and how the “slowing” affects even that!

6) Julia mentions Nostradamus. How often does his name come up today when natural or unexpected phenomena occur? Or when dates strangely align or correlate to something extraordinary?

7) The narrator recognizes that sports and the “shows had to go on” and they were still of major importance to society during these stressors. Most of us would agree (or perhaps even all of us!) but what else do you think should “go on” to keep some sense of normalcy? 8) The narrator indicates what the “Age of Miracles” is all about. (Pg 43) How do you think this became the title as it relates to the story as a whole? Talk about hope for the future…

9) Who was your favorite character in this novel and why? What was their biggest contribution or detraction from the story’s premise?

10) Would you be on “clock time” or “real time” and why so?

11) How did this story affect you without ever knowing the cause of the slowing which is intentionally omitted (perhaps for reasons unknown), if there ever was one?

12) For me, the last line was perfection....”We were here.” It feels right. It feels like someone would write something like that in cement and it makes me wonder if the Mars Landrover ever glided over a rock or a monument or an archway and some celestial being or Martian had written in their language, “We were here.” We would all be stunned at the knowledge that finally, FINALLY, the proof of life elsewhere really does exist. What do you think a find like that would have on mankind?

Author’s and/or Publisher's Questions:

1. As readers, why do you think we’re drawn to stories about the end of the world? What special pleasures do these kinds of narratives offer? And how do you think this element works in The Age of Miracles?

2. Julia is an only child. How does this fact affect who she is and how she sees the world? How would her experience of the slowing be different if she had a sibling? How would her experience of middle school be different?

3. How much do you think the slowing alters Julia’s experience of adolescence? If the slowing had never happened, in what ways would her childhood have been different? In what ways would it have been the same?

4. Julia’s parents’ marriage becomes increasingly strained over the course of the book. Why do you think they stay together? Do you think it’s the right choice? How much do you think Julia’s mother does or does not know about Sylvia?

5. Julia’s father tells several crucial lies. Discuss these lies and consider which ones, if any, are justified and which ones are not. Is lying ever the right thing to do? If so, when?

6. How would the book change if it were narrated by Julia’s mother? What if it were narrated by Julia’s father? Or her grandfather?

7. Why do you think Julia is so drawn to Seth? Why do you think he is drawn to her?

8. Did you identify more with the clock-timers or with the real-timers? Which would you be and why?

9. The slowing affects the whole planet, but the book is set in southern California. How does the setting affect the book? How important is it that the story takes place in California?

10. 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?

11. The slowing throws the natural world into disarray. Plants and animals die and there are changes in the weather. Did this book make you think about the threats that face our own natural world? Do you think the book has something to say about climate change?

12. If you woke up tomorrow to the news that the rotation of the earth had significantly slowed, how do you think you would respond? What is the first thing you would do?