Friday, September 30, 2016

The Wonder

Title:  The Wonder
Author:  Emma Donoghue
Publication Information:  Little, Brown and Company. 2016. 304 pages.
ISBN:  0316393878 / 978-0316393874

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The journey was no worse than she expected."

Favorite Quote:  "But haven't most new discoveries in the history of civilization seemed uncanny at first, almost magical? ... From Archimedes to Newton, all the greats"

I absolutely loved Room by Emma Donoghue. Even though I read it years ago, it still stands out as a memorable story. The premise of this book is equally as striking. The idea for the book was inspired by actual cases of fasting girls documented through history in Europe and North America; the resolution of those cases ranged from proof of a hoax to death of the young woman.

In this book, eleven year old Anna O'Donnell seems to survive without food; she has supposedly not eaten for since her eleventh birthday. Is it a hoax? Is it a spiritual miracle? Is it something else all together? Is she of this world? Is she a wonder of this world?

Everyone has their own opinion. The small Irish town outside of Athlone, Ireland, in which young Anna lives sets out to prove or disprove the family's claim. They hire a non-Irish nurse and a Catholic nun to watch the child 24/7 to ensure that she is indeed surviving without food. Lib Wright, the nurse, becomes the main focus of the story. She, of course, does not believe and sets out to prove the fraud. That, in one sentence, is the entire first half of the book. She must watch Anna. She must not let food escape notice. She must prove the hoax. It must be a fraud. Maybe Anna's sneaking food. Maybe the family is complicit. She must watch Anna.

Then, the book takes a turn as Lib gets to know Anna and begins to wonder "what if." Then, unfortunately, the book keeps turning to an unexpected conclusion. Without a spoiler, I will say that the conclusion leaves me disappointed. The buildup of the question is not resolved in the answer. An answer for why and how is given, but the answer opens up an entire new story that is never developed, explained, or pursued. To me, the book is not a psychological thriller as many have termed it, but simply a sordid story of family and child.

Surrounding young Anna's story is Lib's own story of her background, her nurse's training with Florence Nightingale, and her own budding romance. Lib's story acts as background noise for Anna's story and as a vehicle to get Anna's story to an ending. Unfortunately, the first half of the book with Lib's insistence and stringency in her monitoring of Anna sets her up as an unlikable character such that I find myself not caring about her story at all.

I am not entire sure how to rate this book. The first half, if not more, of the book seems repetitious about Lib's belief that it must be a hoax and her focus on keeping constant watch on Anna. Then, the action picks up a bit. The writing keeps me reading because I want to see where the story goes. Unfortunately, I am disappointed by where the story ends up, how quickly it wraps up, and how I arrive at the end not really believing or caring about the story.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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