The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue

Set in her homeland of Ireland, more specifically the boggy Irish Midlands, in 1859, The Wonder is a mystery that unfolds slowly and dangerously as an eleven-year-old girl lies mostly holed up in her room over the course of many days. The mystery is one of survival and deceit; she has, supposedly, subsisted for 4 months on no food and a meager few teaspoons of water each day. The nurse who is hired to watch her and uncover the truth, a science-minded woman in a land of severe religious believers and superstitious minds, seeks to uncover the truth, and in turn, begins to love the chid as her own.

I loved this book, as I did Donoghue’s Room, for its ability to stay in one place while going elsewhere in mind. Donoghue notes that the story is based on true events of the nearly 50 cases of “so-called Fasting Girls” between the 16th and 20th centuries, many of which were found to be hoaxes. The town’s desire to believe in a miracle blind them to the physical degeneration of the girl, and as the story progresses, uncovering the truth becomes a race against time. Of the 50 or so books I’ve read this past year, this one ranks in the top 10. It is a page-turner and exciting mystery, an indulgence that raises questions about how religion can go too far.

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  1. What are your other top ten? The other books you’ve posted about this year?

    I really liked:
    1) Han Kang- The Vegetarian (disturbing)
    2) Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project (funny)
    3) Alejandro Zambra – Multiple Choice (strikingly different prose)

    1. That’s a great question, Lesley! My top 10 are:

      1) Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
      2) Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
      3) House of Sand & Fog, by Andre Dubus III
      4) Grunt, by Mary Roach
      5) Man V. Nature, by Diane Cook (very disturbing, sometimes funny short stories)
      6) The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue
      7) The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff
      8) The Importance of Being Little, by Erika Christakis
      9) Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
      10) Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

      I haven’t read any of yours! Going to add them to my list!

    2. Also, yes, most of them I have posted about, though not Man V Nature, which I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet, as I passed the book on to my sister as soon as I was finished reading.

  2. Great and disturbing book. I’ve just finished that one and started Tana French’s “The Trespasser” — a modern-day Dublin murder mystery — to keep the Ireland theme going. Quite a different book! 🙂 Happy new year.

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