I mentally wrestled with myself before writing this post. What difference does one more review make, as there are already 307 on Amazon and 2,401 on Goodreads? What do I have to say that others haven't already said? Honestly, probably nothing. However, through reading and discussing Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, I realized that there may be a few takeaways that can make us better writers and better readers. I'll try my best to share these lessons without any spoilers.
Lesson 1 - Confidence is key. Unless you are George R. R. Martin and leave a ten year gap between every 700-page book you write and need to find a way to pull readers back into your neverending story, it is not necessary to end every chapter with a cliff hanger (And even you, Mr. Martin, should not abuse that technique). Please don't treat your reader like an idiot. Human beings are programmed to move forward, and most of us will continue reading if the story is compelling enough. Too many of these chapterly1 cliff hangers and it's as if you don't trust your story to carry its own weight. And it starts to make me think that I shouldn't trust it either.
Lesson 2 - Commit. The first topic of discussion at our book club was whether Age of Miracles is a coming-of-age or dystopian novel. And I think it was meant to be a coming-of-age novel but it wasn't necessarily the pervasive theme. The main character didn't so much "come of age" as she was already there. We agreed that the book could interpreted as dystopian or even kind of sci fi because of the uniqueness of the premise, which was the 'hook' for this book. Committing to either genre alone would have made for a very interesting read but weak commitment to both left the reader confused and made them feel less connected, which leads to my next point...
Lesson 3 - Make us fall in love. We want to feel for your characters. We want to care about whether they succeed or fail, fall in or out of love, live or die. Develop and nurture them - go all Frankenstein on their @$$ and bring them to life! People within this story DIE and hardly anyone even cares. As one of my book club members said it best, "I'd like to find out what happens after this particular story. But I want a different narrator."
Lesson 4 - Life goes on. This was the one clear message that permeated throughout the book. Despite this novel being fictional, the message is true, of course. Regardless of good or bad reviews, Ms. Walker's life will also go on. It's her debut book and I hope it encourages her to write more and develop her own skill as an author. And as bloggers, storytellers and readers, that's something we should all do.
1Like the new word I invented?