Title: The Wonder
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, September 2016
Summary/Review: Anna O’Donnell is a perfectly normal, very bright, attractive and extremely pious 11-year-old Irish girl who has not eaten a morsel of food in four months.
Is she a Wonder or a hoax? If she is a wonder then everyone in her deeply religious Catholic hometown is living with a possible saint, but if she and her family are perpetrating a hoax they want to get to the bottom of it.
This is where Lib Wright, who is a nurse on the vanguard of modern medicine comes in. She is hired by a town committee, along with a local nun, to keep strict watch over young Anna for two weeks to see if she is secretly receiving any nutrition at all. Lib is convinced that there is indeed a hoax being committed and sets out to expose it. She has to contend with deep-seated “traditional” medical thought as practiced by the two doctors who are attending to Anna as she wastes away right in front of Lib’s eyes.
Lib discovers a complex and self-serving community surrounding Anna as she does her best to expose what she KNOWS is a sham, while doing her utmost to do no harm to the young girl in her care.
The reader is treated to a description of how modern nursing came to be taught to the women of Europe along with a look at the superstitions and deep religious convictions which shaped every facet of Irish country life.
The resolution of the mystery is shocking. Anna has a deep and troubling secret which beautifully ties together every terrible possibility the story poses.
One thing to consider: you might want to read this book, and you really should read it, with a dictionary or smart device at hand to look up words used by the author in her rich and vibrant descriptions. She has a PhD in eighteenth-century literature and her vocabulary is extraordinary.
Who will like this book?: Readers of Historical Fiction or Mystery, or anyone who just wants to read a great story.
If you like this, try this: News of the World by Paulette Jiles, or Room by Emma Donoghue
Recommended by: Mark Z, Guest Reviewer
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