Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Synopsis: 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.
Evocative, breathtaking, disturbing, compelling, thought-provoking (I’m going to stop with the superlatives here, since you can probably guess how I feel about this book), The Wonder is another example of why Emma Donoghue is considered to be such an amazing writer. Anna is representative of the so-called “fasting girls” which was a phenomena that took place mainly during the Victorian era, although it seems as though there are over 50 documented cases between the 16th and 20th centuries. Many young girls from Europe to the U.S. claimed they were able to survive without sustenance for long periods of time due to divine intervention. Most modern day medical professionals however see this as an early version of anorexia nervosa. I had never heard of this, so right away I was completely riveted. When Lib first arrives, young Anne hasn’t had any nourishment for four months, yet she seems perfectly healthy. Lib’s role is basically to observe and report, without interfering. The frustration she feels is understandable and resonates off the page. Anna seems to be a sweet innocent child who is accepting of believers and non-believers alike which makes you want to know what is really happening even more. What truly makes this story shine though, are the beautiful details the author uses to flesh out her story. From the very first page I was completely immersed in the beautiful setting of Ireland, the people, and its superstitions. Every aspect is brought to life in Donoghue’s talented hands, and I actually felt as though I was there on the O’Donnell’s small farm as the events unfolded. There’s also the intriguing mystery of whether it’s truly possible that Anna is surviving on just air and water, or is she receiving food secretly. Religion is a major theme of this story, but it’s portrayed in neither a positive or negative way. Rather, it serves as the backdrop to the overall story. What really made The Wonder a success for me is that it made me want to research its subject matter more. This is the third book I’ve read of Donoghue’s after Frog Music and Room and she’s turned into one of my go-to authors when I’m in the mood for an emotional, disturbing and compelling story. I believe fans of Emma Donoghue’s will find The Wonder as further proof of her remarkable storytelling skills, and if you’re new to her writing, this is an excellent book to start with.