By Katherine Thompson Walker.
The main character in the book is Julia, an 11 year-old girl who is in the sixth grade. An only child, Julia lives with her mother, a teacher, and her father, a doctor. Julia plays soccer and takes piano lessons, has a crush on a boy named Seth, and is painfully sensitive to acceptance or the lack thereof by her friends. She is lonely.
In the midst of this adolescent trauma, something happens: the earth begins to slow its rotation. Rotation refers to the rotation of the earth around its own axis. The earth continues to revolve around the sun at the same pace. “The slowing”, as they will come to call it, lengthens the days. At first, no one notices. By the time someone does, a day has lengthened to 25 hours and 37 minutes.
This is actually happening. A day is now 1.7 milliseconds longer than it was 100 years ago. It will take hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions, for Earth to stop revolving altogether. But in the book, the process is dramatically escalated.
Most countries, including the U.S. decide to remain on “clock time” with a day that is 24 hours long. “Time” becomes unhinged from “day” and “night”. You can wake up in what seems to be the middle of the night to go to work or school, and the sun will “rise” at maybe 2:00 in the afternoon. It’s very disorienting. Unlike what you think might be the case, prolonged periods of darkness aren’t the problem. It’s the prolonged periods of light.
The first thing that happens is that birds start dropping out of the sky. It’s assumed that gravity is increasing. People are getting sick too, and it’s initially called “gravity sickness”. Eventually they just call it “the Syndrome”. It gets worse.
This book is hard to categorize, as all the best books are. It isn’t science fiction exactly, it isn’t apocalyptic exactly, it isn’t a coming-of-age story exactly. It’s provocative, and makes you think, What if you really WERE living in the “end times”? The best explanation is from the book itself:
“It still amazes me how little we really knew.
We had rockets and satellites and nanotechnology. We had robot arms and robot hands, robots for roving the surface of Mars. Our unmanned planes, controlled remotely, could hear human voices from three miles away. We could manufacture skin, clone sheep. We could make a dead man’s heart pump blood through the body of a stranger. We were making great strides in the realms of love and sadness–we had drugs to spur desire, drugs for melting pain. We performed all sorts of miracles: We could make the blind see and the deaf hear, and doctors daily conjured babies from the wombs of infertile women. At the time of the slowing, stem cell researchers were on the verge of healing paralysis–surely the lame soon would have walked.
And yet, the unknown still outweighed the known.”
A very powerful and haunting book.