The Wonder by Emma Donoghue – Book Review

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 Lib Wright, a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, has been hired to “watch” Anna O’Donnell, an eleven-year-old who lives in the middle of Ireland in a tiny “village”.  Anna has been on a fast for four months, taking no nourishment other than water, yet she is not wasting away.  Lib’s “watch” along with a Nun (also a nurse), takes place in the hut of Anna’s family.  Lib begins her new job with the single reason of catching out Anna’s fakery.  In fact, I had a hard time even liking, much less sympathizing with Lib in the beginning of the novel.  However, Donoghues’ plot was so compelling that I simply had to keep on reading.

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Over the course of the two weeks that Lib’s watch is to take, she not only changes her opinion of Anna herself, but also undergoes a change within herself.  After all, Anna is an eleven-year-old girl with no guile in her heart, a true devotion to Mary, and a strong belief in the Catholic church.

This novel is a testament to what faith, and the need to preserve a good family name will do to some people. It deals with the effects of the Potato Famine in Ireland, how society breaks down, and the mind-numbing poverty these people lived with.  I truly found this to be both disturbing and a “wonder” in more than one way.  I highly recommend this book.  Well done, Donoghue!

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Emma Donoghue

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