Review: The Age of Miraclesby Karen Thompson Walker
Entering your teens can be an earth-shattering experience for any girl, usually including a brick-hard belief that the world is going to end if something does, or does not, happen the way it should. Everything is drama and high emotion.
Imagine if that coming-of-age is played out at a time when the world really is moving to a close.
In The Age of Miracles, a young girl named Julia begins a normal Saturday with her family, until the news emerges that the Earth has begun to slow down. At first the movement is small, barely noticeable, just adding 56 minutes to the usual 24-hour day. But as the planet slows more and more each day, bigger changes occur. Birds fall from the sky, crops begin to fail, insomnia strikes as the hours of daylight shift and slow. Morning becomes night and night becomes noon. Gravity pulls and pushes the human body in unhealthy ways. And there is absolutely nothing that can be done to stop it.
At first, there is a faction of "normals" who want to, who need to, retain a sense of normalcy despite the reality that is right in front of them. Eventually though, even they must give in to the inevitable. After all, how do you stick to a schedule when the clock (and the government) tells you to go to school as the sun goes down? Why bother with your job or paying bills as you watch all the plants wither around you? Does that "normal" life make sense when nothing will ever be the same?
In this crazy, tilting world, Julia's personal life mirrors the larger events surrounding her, with a constant moving landscape of parental problems, boy issues, and raging hormones.
Julia finds it difficult to keep her footing on the shifting ground of her life, and that's without the grander scale of problems created by the Earth's slowing movement.
Walker does a deft job of juggling the larger picture of a descent into the end of time, and the smaller, but no less important, details of a young girl just at the start of her adult life. At the end, this isn't a sad tale, but rather a bittersweet look at the time in our lives where one chapter is ending and another very different one is beginning.
Recipe: My Last Best MealSo let's say the planet is spinning out of control – or slowing down to a dead stop. What would be your last best meal? This is game often played on Top Chef, and I notice that the most common ingredient is calories. Lots and lots of calories. And why not, right? So here is my recipe for the one dish that I try to eat only once a year: Macaroni and Cheese. Makes 4 servings, unless the world is ending. If that is the case, just get a big spoon and dig right in. Portion control will be the least of your concerns.
1 pound macaroni
4 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup diced onion
4 Tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream (see why I try not to eat this?)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 cups very sharp cheddar, grated
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup breadcrumbs
Cook pasta according to instructions and then set aside to cool. In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and then add onion. Lightly season with salt and cook until onion is translucent. Add flour and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, but don't let it brown. Whisk in milk and cream slowly to create a creamy consistency. Bring mixture to a simmer, add bay leaf and cloves. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Turn off heat and remove bay leaf. Stir in
1 1/2 cups of cheddar and the Swiss cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then stir in the cooked macaroni. Spoon into 2 1/2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheddar, Parmesan, and breadcrumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.