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 11-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 best seller, 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.
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Note: Tread carefully with the reviews...the more you don't know the better, and disregard any foregone conclusions you might have. If Room haunted you, prepare to be haunted -- and furious to tears, with Donoghue's masterful new novel.
Donoghue absolutely intrigues me. There is so much psychology and strategy behind her stories, so much accumulation in each sentence. She seems to approach her writing like an architect, laying a simple foundation that is solid and strong, but also aware of the imposing structure that will rise from that footing. Her words are carefully chosen; her characterizations superb, and her story-lines floodgates that by degrees unleash torrents of emotion. Even that which is lightly said, or unsaid for that matter, feels forceful. As I did when I finished Room, I paused and thought back over each step, each word, even pictured in my mind each expression -- and marveled at the tightness, marveled at the whole mighty story balanced on such a powder keg of a premise. And here again, it seems Donoghue has her readers inhabiting just 4 walls, a small room full of secrets and whispers, that contains such enormous dimensions.
A former student of the honorable Florence Nightingale, Nurse Lib is dispatched to a small village in Ireland to observe an 11 yr. old seemingly healthy girl that townspeople claim has existed for four months on only a couple of spoonfuls of water each day. Oddly, she is told to make only observations, that no nursing duties will be needed and she will be sharing a round the clock vigil with a local nun. The time is after the Crimean War, approximately 1860, and just after the Irish potato famine. The atmosphere of the village is one of superstition and religiosity, with little education offered and a strong connection between church and governing. Lib finds herself, a non-Catholic, ostracized, but necessary. As she questions the motivations of her assignment and each person involved with the little girl, villagers seem to move in on Lib. [*Donoghue surely draws on Nightingale's own unsuccessful experience with Catholicism to fuel Lib's pondering of the constant religious events that surround her.] You will begin to feel the questions arise in yourself. Before you come up with your explanation, Donoghue slams the truth down on you -- hard and heartbreaking. But, not so much that you should avoid this book....(There has to be a pay out -- at least a trickle -- for me to stick with a book so overwhelming.)
I will call friends to recommend this one, with the admonition that I have mixed feelings about the ending; but that's all I will say of that to you! (explanation for the 4*'s.) I'll also warn any one interested that this book is constructed of a lot of detailed dialogue and religious explanations. One site labeled the author with the title of the "undisputed master of the small and the slow." But, if the devil is in the details as they say, Donoghue knows how to make the read reveal itself as heavenly. The narrator is fabulous with the accents, but they don't work well at 2 x -- even at 1.5 x she tends to sound a little chimpmunk-y when voicing the child. I would suggest biting the bullet and just devoting the time to this one if your are even considering this for your library. It is 13 hours that you will emotionally and philosophically experience for much longer.