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The Wonder
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The Wonder
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In this masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse is brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle — a girl said to have survived without...
In this masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse is brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle — a girl said to have survived without...
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  • In this masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse is brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle — a girl said to have survived without food for month — and 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.
    Acclaim for The Wonder:
    "Deliciously gothic.... Dark and vivid, with complicated characters, this is a novel that lodges itself deep" (USA Today, 3/4 stars)
    "Heartbreaking and transcendent"(New York Times)
    "A fable as lean and discomfiting as Anna's dwindling body.... Donoghue keeps us riveted" (Chicago Tribune)
    "Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief" (Newsday)
 

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About the Author-

  • Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish emigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature before moving to London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their two children. She also migrates between genres, writing literary history, biography, stage and radio plays as well as fairy tales and short stories.
    She is best known for her novels, which range from the historical (Frog Music, Slammerkin, Life Mask, Landing, The Sealed Letter) to the contemporary (Akin, Stir-Fry, Hood, Landing). Her international bestseller Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and was a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 4, 2016
    Donoghue demonstrates her versatility by dabbling in a wide range of literary styles in this latest novel. Set mostly in a small, spare room inside a shabby cabin in rural 1850s Ireland, the closely imagined, intricately drawn story possesses many of the same alluring qualities as her bestseller, Room. Lib, a widow and former nurse, is summoned from London to the peat-smelling village of Athlone for a fortnight to assess whether 11-year-old “living marvel” Anna O’Donnell has truly been able to survive without food for four months. It could be some sort of hoax perpetrated by the girl’s family or the village parish, and Lib confidently assumes that it’ll be an open-and-shut case. But as each day passes and Anna’s health suddenly begins to deteriorate, not only does Lib grow more attached to the earnest girl, but she also becomes convinced that Anna’s reasons for fasting—a recently deceased brother, devotion to God, her parents’ influence—run far deeper than Lib imagined. Inspired by the true cases of nearly 50 “Fasting Girls”—who lived throughout the British Isles, western Europe, and North America between the 16th and 20th centuries and became renowned for living without food for long periods of time—Donoghue’s engrossing novel is loaded with descriptions of period customs and 19th-century Catholic devotional objects and prayers. Even with its tidy ending, the novel asks daring questions about just how far some might go to prove their faith.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 15, 2016
    An English nurse confronts Irish history and entrenched prejudices--some of them hers--in this stinging latest from Donoghue (Frog Music, 2014, etc.).Lib Wright has survived the Crimean War and a failed marriage by the time she's summoned to central Ireland to watch over 11-year-old Anna O'Donnell, whose parents claim she has eaten no food in four months. The girl's physician, Dr. McBrearty, and a committee of local bigwigs have hired Lib and a nun to provide round-the-clock surveillance. Lib quickly realizes that Dr. McBrearty, at least, is weirdly anxious to prove the girl's fast is no hoax, even if he deplores loose talk of a miracle. An advocate of the scientific nursing principles preached by Florence Nightingale, Lib has nothing but contempt for such an absurd idea. Yet she is charmed by Anna, as whip-smart as she is pious, and alarmed when the girl's surprisingly robust health begins to falter shortly after the nurses' watch begins. Clearly someone has been feeding Anna until now, but it's also clear she believes she has eaten nothing. Lib's solution of this riddle says nothing good about provincial Irish society in the mid-19th century, seen through her eyes as sexist, abusive, and riddled with ridiculous superstitions. Irish Times correspondent William Byrne counters with a scathing analysis of the recent potato famine, angrily instructing this blinkered Englishwoman in her nation's culpability for mass starvation as well as the centuries of repression that have made the Irish a defensive, backward people. Nonetheless, nothing can excuse the wall of denial Lib slams into as she desperately tries to get Anna's parents and the committee even to acknowledge how sick the child is. The story's resolution seems like pure wish fulfillment, but vivid, tender scenes between Lib and Anna, coupled with the pleasing romance that springs up between feisty Lib and the appreciative Byrne, will incline most readers to grant Donoghue her tentative happy ending. Her contemporary thriller Room (2010) made the author an international bestseller, but this gripping tale offers a welcome reminder that her historical fiction is equally fine.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from July 1, 2016
    In her outstanding new psychologically intense and suspenseful novel, Donoghue (Frog Music, 2014) plunges readers deeply into her protagonist's confounding situation and its ethical consequences. In 1859, Lib Wright, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale herself, is tasked with an unsettling mission: watching over Anna O'Donnell, an 11-year-old girl in a small Irish village who, so it's claimed, hasn't ingested any nourishment in four months. While Anna doesn't appear to be starving, neither is she blooming with health. Her devoutly religious mother acts proud of her seemingly miraculous restraint. Believing this extraordinary wonder to be a lucrative scam, Lib determines to locate Anna's secret food source and expose her as a fake. She has two weeks to do so. However, Anna, an unforgettable character, is a delightful, curious child who awakens Lib's protective nature, increasingly so as Anna's well-being deteriorates. Donoghue excels at evoking the social and religious atmosphere that proves difficult for the secular-minded Lib to penetrate. Fervent Catholic piety intermingles with folk superstitions, and the confined setting of the O'Donnells' meager cabin feels tangibly immediate. The mystery about Anna forces readers to weigh every word for clues, while the creeping tension urges them to read faster, with a growing sense of urgency. Exploring the nature of faith and trust with heartrending intensity, Donoghue's superb novel will leave few unaffected.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With the resounding success of the film version of Donoghue's novel Room, her readership is vast and hungry, and this will be promoted accordingly.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from September 1, 2016

    In August 1859, nurse Lib Wright accepts an unusual assignment: to observe a devout 11-year-old Catholic girl in Athlone, Ireland, who has not eaten in four months and yet remains mostly healthy. Having trained under Florence Nightingale, Lib is ideally equipped to verify whether Anna O'Donnell's fast is a hoax. She initially suspects the child's piety is a scam for attention, but Anna's gentle nature softens the nurse's heart. As Anna's health deteriorates, Lib investigates and discovers that the girl's heart is burdened by a deep shame reinforced by her loved ones' narcissistic pieties, while the medical implications of Anna's fast blind her physician to her alarming decline. Lib resolves to save Anna's life. To do so, however, she may have to commit a murder. The author's depiction of Anna is especially marvelous and her narrative pacing masterly. VERDICT Donoghue's most recent offering is as startlingly rewarding as her celebrated novel Room. Heart-hammering suspense builds as Lib monitors Anna's quickening pulse, making this book's bracing conclusion one of the most satisfying in recent fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/16.]--John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2016

    Donoghue follows up 2014's much-starred Frog Music with another historical that sounds as wrenching as her Man Booker finalist, Room. In a remote 1850s Irish village, young Anna O'Donnell has decided to demonstrate her faith by fasting, and folks from all over arrive to stand in the shining light of this presumed miracle (will she survive?). English nurse Lib has another assignment--to determine whether Anna is a fraud--but instead finds herself wondering whether Anna is succumbing to slowly unfolding murder.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2016

    In August 1859, nurse Lib Wright accepts an unusual assignment: to observe a devout 11-year-old Catholic girl in Athlone, Ireland, who has not eaten in four months and yet remains mostly healthy. Having trained under Florence Nightingale, Lib is ideally equipped to verify whether Anna O'Donnell's fast is a hoax. She initially suspects the child's piety is a scam for attention, but Anna's gentle nature softens the nurse's heart. As Anna's health deteriorates, Lib investigates and discovers that the girl's heart is burdened by a deep shame reinforced by her loved ones' narcissistic pieties, while the medical implications of Anna's fast blind her physician to her alarming decline. Lib resolves to save Anna's life. To do so, however, she may have to commit a murder. The author's depiction of Anna is especially marvelous and her narrative pacing masterly. VERDICT Donoghue's most recent offering is as startlingly rewarding as her celebrated novel Room. Heart-hammering suspense builds as Lib monitors Anna's quickening pulse, making this book's bracing conclusion one of the most satisfying in recent fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/16.]--John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) [Donoghue's] contemporary thriller Room made [her] an international bestseller, but this gripping tale offers a welcome reminder that her historical fiction is equally fine.
  • Sarah Johnson, Booklist (starred review) Outstanding.... Exploring the nature of faith and trust with heartrending intensity, Donoghue's superb novel will leave few unaffected.
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) Donoghue demonstrates her versatility by dabbling in a wide range of literary styles in this latest novel.... The closely imagined, intricately drawn story possesses many of the same alluring qualities as her bestseller, Room. .... Donoghue's engrossing novel is loaded with descriptions of period customs and 19th-century Catholic devotional objects and prayers...[and] asks daring questions about just how far some might go to prove their faith.
  • The Millions Donoghue is known for her bestselling novel, Room.... [But] she is also well versed in historical fiction. THE WONDER brings together the best of all, combining a gracefully tense, young voice with a richly detailed historical setting.
  • Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times Readers of historical fiction will gravitate to this tale.
  • Megan O'Grady, Vogue A riveting allegory about the trickle-down effect of trauma.
  • Tom Beer, Newsday Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief all the while crafting a compelling story and an evocative portrait of 19th-century Irish provincial society.
  • Liz Loerke, Real Simple Donoghue's superb thriller will keep readers hanging on to every word, pondering how far one will go to prove her faith.
  • Steph Opitz, Marie Claire What at first seems a simple matter becomes far more-stick with it, the payoff is there.
  • Boris Kachka, Vulture Fresh and unusually lively historical fiction. [Donoghue's] latest novel brings together both her preoccupation with child peril and her gift for history.
  • Brenda Janowitz, PopSugar A haunting novel about good vs. evil.
  • Roxana Robinson, O, The Oprah Magazine Like [Room], THE WONDER explores a dark, insular, and rigidly controlled environment.... Donoghue's clever use of an outsider as narrator lets her explain anomalies to us-what a creepie is (a log stool) and why people tie rags to a tree (to hold their pain)-as she encounters them herself. But there is more to this mystery than superstitions and local dialect. Lib must decipher the private truths of Anna and her family, who have closed ranks in grief over the loss of a son. She must puzzle out the community itself and its contradictory beliefs in religion, science, and tradition. And Lib has her own sorrowful secrets, her own need for personal redemption. Donoghue deftly pairs the two stories, and as Lib uncovers the truth about Anna, she gradually owns the truth about herself.
  • Valerie Koehler, Literary Hub Riveting.... Highly recommended.
  • Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue is just that: 'a wonder' of a story about religious delusion and self-denial [that] teem[s] with drama and great moral questions.... Donoghue manages to engage larger mysteries of faith, doubt and evil without sacrificing the lyricism of her language or the suspense of her storyline.
  • Stassa Edwards, Jezebel All spectacle and gothic horror and inevitably hard to put down.
  • Steph Cha, USA Today, 3/4 stars Has that vivid, ripped-from-the-headlines feel that comes from an author's utter fascination with a real-world subject.... THE WONDER is deliciously gothic.... Dark and vivid, with complicated characters, this is a novel that lodges itself deep.
  • Meghan O'Gieblyn, Los Angeles Review of Books Fodder for endless book club debates.
  • Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe A fine work, adept and compelling in voice, plot, and moral complexity.... Donoghue deals out the cards with real skill.
  • Sarah Lyall, New York Times Fascinating.... Like The Turn of the Screw, the novel opens irresistibly, when a young woman with a troubled past gets an enigmatic posting in a remote place.... Heartbreaking and transcendent and almost religious in itself.
  • Amy Gentry, Chicago Tribune A locked-room mystery, set in atmospheric 19th-century Ireland and as spare, in its own way, as Room.... A fable as lean and discomfiting as Anna's dwindling body.... Donoghue keeps us riveted to Lib's perspective throughout.... Thanks to the complexity of Donoghue's ideas, there's plenty on which to ruminate.
  • Alexandra Schwartz, New Yorker Donoghue, a writer of great vitality and generosity-one gets the sense that she would gladly have her...

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