A scifi premise enhances but doesn’t overpower this character rich story that’s impossible to put downEarth’s rotation is slowing, days and nights are lengthening, natural disasters are increasing, and in this newly unpredictable world people are still living their lives while adjusting as best they can, including Julia, the narrator, who is recounting her thoughts and experiences as an eleven year old girl coping with a lost friendship, a first crush and the deterioration of her parent’s marriage when the changes begin. Initially the longer periods of darkness are most frightening, but then it’s the long, hot radiation filled days. Powerful and erratic tides have washed out all the expensive beach front homes in Julia’s California town, knocking down walls and depositing sand and sea creatures. A disruption in the magnetic field means that auroras, with their pulsating waves of green light, are no longer confined to polar regions, they now stretch all the way to the equator. When scientists announce Earth’s slowing rotation most people react with panic, but everyone panics differently. Julia’s best friend Hanna is a Mormon and her family flees to Utah believing they know where Jesus will soon ascend, which leaves Julia feeling like she’s lost a limb. Hanna comes back in a few weeks, but the friendship doesn’t survive, more a victim of the shifting alliances of adolescence than the result of cataclysmic world events. Julia is left to eat her lunch alone in the library until her crush on Seth, a skateboarding loner, turns into her first experience with love and she has someone to explore and challenge the brave new world with. The strange and changing circumstances they confront mean that at first people don’t know when they should go to school or leave for work, since light and dark periods are no longer predictable. Soon, however, most world governments agree that the economic markets need stability so it would be best if everyone lives by the old 24 hour “clock time” no matter where the sun is in the sky. Most people comply, but this is America so others rebel and try to adapt to the new day length, some moving off the grid and forming their own isolated real time colonies in the desert. The real-timers who stay are seen as dangerous and are ostracized, including Julia’s former piano teacher, a free-spirit who lives next door, and the friendly, formerly tolerated counter-culture couple down the street. The Age of Miracles has a science fiction-like premise, but it’s scifi only in the way the Time Traveler’s Wife is. Set in our present time, it’s a beautifully written, deeply imagined, character-based coming of age story, filled with ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.