Having read Room a few years ago, this is my second read from Emma Donoghue. Although vastly different stories they share a powerful sense of tension and showcase how compelling a writer Donoghue is.
Lib Wright arives in a tiny, rural Irish town, hired from England as a private nurse for exactly two weeks. Trained by Florence Nightingale herself, Lib is fastidious and cynical, a stranger to this country so close and yet so different from her own. She learns that she has been hired to observe Anna, a young girl who allegedly has not eaten in four months and yet is perfectly healthy. Anna’s family claims a miracle and Anna is certainly devout enough but others, especially Lib, are skeptical. Lib, an atheist, is determined to discover the secret of Anna’s “miracle” but, in true Donoghue fashion, it is much darker and more complex than expected.
The Wonder is immensely readable and Donoghue does an excellent job of bringing place and characters to life. Lib has her secrets to hide and biases to bring to her task and these are slowly revealed as her connection to Anna becomes more and more complicated. Donoghue also finds that balance of mystery – what if Anna is telling the truth. What can a miracle look like? Is a miracle always for good? At the heart of the story is a deep and formidable Catholic faith and while I’m not Catholic, I felt that Donoghue was largely respectful of both her characters and her readers when dealing with the faith.
If you choose to read The Wonder just make sure you have enough time set aside; you’ll want to get through it as quickly as possible.