The Wonder by Emma Donogue
Publisher: Little Brown, September 20, 2016
Description from the publisher:
In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.
Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.
Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.
This was one of those novels that started out a little slow for me, but then completely bowled me over by the end. I felt that the first half of the book was somewhat tedious and frustrating. It starts with Lib, the nurse sent to ascertain the validity of this miracle, trying to catch someone lying about Anna's ability to live without food. She doesn't, and we get little bits of her back story as well as the O'Donnell's as she goes to and fro her shift watching over the girl and taking aimless walks about the countryside to vent her irritation. The hamster wheel of rather repetitive scenes was frustrating, but I suppose that is EXACTLY how Lib felt. I then was 100% on this journey with her. Because by the time the house of cards finally starts to fall in this crazy situation, I was riveted, stunned, and feeling desperate. She is caught in a terrible position between the family, the church, the reporter and the doctors, while trying to do the best for this young girl. Without giving spoilers, all I can say is that it becomes a horrifyingly fascinating tangle of loyalty and morality with some jaw dropping secrets that come to light in the final, white-knuckle, moments.
It's honestly very, very reminiscent of the novel she is best known for: Room. Whereas Room sets into a fever pitch pretty early in the novel, The Wonder has a slow build. But the indelible aspects are so similar: What would you do? How would you feel? What would you do for the love of a child? The depth of subject matter to pore over with a book club would be VAST. I also found the historical fiction angle, regarding the cases of 'Fasting Girls' beginning in the sixteenth century, fascinating. It is definitely worth checking out and it certainly made me curious to check out her other historical fiction novel Frog Music.
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