The Wonder

The Wonder

In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, 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 eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna...

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Title:The Wonder
Author:Emma Donoghue
Rating:
ISBN:0316393878
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:291 pages

The Wonder Reviews

  • Diane S ☔
    Mar 14, 2016

    4.5 When Libby a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, fought alongside of her in the Crimea, contracts to work with a family in Ireland, she has no idea what she is letting herself in for. Eleven year old, Anne, is said to have not eaten any solid food for over four months and Lib's job will be to observe her for two weeks, to see if the claims are true. She will alternate this duty with a nursing sister of the same Catholic faith as the family.

    Extremely atmospheric, I felt the same frustratio

    4.5 When Libby a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, fought alongside of her in the Crimea, contracts to work with a family in Ireland, she has no idea what she is letting herself in for. Eleven year old, Anne, is said to have not eaten any solid food for over four months and Lib's job will be to observe her for two weeks, to see if the claims are true. She will alternate this duty with a nursing sister of the same Catholic faith as the family.

    Extremely atmospheric, I felt the same frustration and desperation as Libby, this is such a vividly told story. Running up against Irish superstitions, so much she does not understand, and the hard and fast faith of this family and the people who pilgrimage to come see the child. She makes a friend of a newspaper reporter and he will help Libby see the truth before her unseeing eyes. Anne, herself has secrets, reasons for doing what she is doing and the local doctor should be hanged for being inept. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do and I felt like shaking so many of them. Hard not to engage fully into this story. Where is the line drawn between evil and faith, duty and neglect, responsibility?

    I was not a lover of Room, though I know many are. Loved Frog Music but I think this may be my favorite by this author. In the tone and atmosphere this reminded me a bit of the darkness of

    . This is also based on a composite of fasting girls as they were known and the authors afterward needs to be read.

    ARC from Netgalley.

  • Elyse
    May 20, 2016

    NO SPOILERS AT ALL in this review:

    "More Water?" She offered the spoon.

    "Anna's eyelids flickered but didn't open; she shook her head. "Be it done to me".

    I kept thinking about "Be it done to me". What's the source of an 11 year old girl feeling resigned -powerless? Or, do those words mean something else, altogether to the child?

    A little girl won't eat. Religious reasons? Something else?

    Her parents are convinced she can live without food.

    Incredible? skeptical? Outrageous fraud?

    There have been

    NO SPOILERS AT ALL in this review:

    "More Water?" She offered the spoon.

    "Anna's eyelids flickered but didn't open; she shook her head. "Be it done to me".

    I kept thinking about "Be it done to me". What's the source of an 11 year old girl feeling resigned -powerless? Or, do those words mean something else, altogether to the child?

    A little girl won't eat. Religious reasons? Something else?

    Her parents are convinced she can live without food.

    Incredible? skeptical? Outrageous fraud?

    There have been many letters proclaiming Anna's case is a miracle.

    What's going on?

    In my own life:

    ......our daughter was anorexic for 14 years. - very serious - horrific years for our entire family. So, I know a thing or two or more about eating disorders.

    Yet...from the start - Emma Donoghue had me in the palm of her hands - I never once compared this story to my own or any other modern day eating disorder. Its an incomparable story.

    It wasn't until the final notes of Emma's book - [in the author's notes] - where I learn more about her inspiration came from for this novel. Absolutely fascinating! The story Emma invented -with inspired facts- make this book

    completely different than any book I've ever read about a child refusing to eat.

    Interesting characters - and gorgeous prose!!!

    A side note: I was sold on this novel - as soon as I learned the location was in a small Irish village!!!! I've been falling in love with 'everything Ireland' since meeting a panel of Irish authors this past summer.

    If this is not a #1 BEST SELLER - I'll be shocked! Emma takes us on a slow easy ride at the start...a little faster in the middle --then speeds the dial towards the end. My heart was beating faster.

    Thank You Little Brown and Company, Netgalley, and Emma Donoghue

  • Cheri
    May 20, 2016

    Edit: Available to order or purchase!

    Edit#2: I've thought of this everyday since I finished reading it, and am changing my rating to 5 Stars, as well.

    Lib is a nurse, a Nightingale, trained by Florence N. herself. She is living in London, when she’s called to Athlone, Ireland, smack dab in the middle of Ireland, for a two-week nursing task in a private capacity. She arrives at her housing, a room above a small grocery, after a lengthy and bumpy ride in a jaunting car. She can’t believe anything

    Edit: Available to order or purchase!

    Edit#2: I've thought of this everyday since I finished reading it, and am changing my rating to 5 Stars, as well.

    Lib is a nurse, a Nightingale, trained by Florence N. herself. She is living in London, when she’s called to Athlone, Ireland, smack dab in the middle of Ireland, for a two-week nursing task in a private capacity. She arrives at her housing, a room above a small grocery, after a lengthy and bumpy ride in a jaunting car. She can’t believe anything about this is right, the village is nothing more than a few haphazardly buildings huddled together, with a whitewashed building up from there, standing out with its pointed roof with a cross above

    The town seems mired in myth and fairytale; indeed fairies are much to blame for things gone wrong in this strange village, which Lib can’t quite comprehend. Rituals abound to prevent the fairies from their naughtiness.

    Lib’s just settled down to eat when Dr. McBrearty shows up to fill her in one some of the details of her charge, Anna O’Donnell. The girl is eleven, and for four months, since her birthday, Anna has not taken any food, not eaten at all, since then, yet is still seemingly healthy. Anna has been brought there to watch over her, essentially to supervise and report if she does, in fact, not eat at all.

    It goes against what she believes in, but as a nurse she’s to follow the doctor’s orders and to not interfere, merely document. Another nurse, a nun, stays with her the other shift during the day. The family has been, not surprisingly, accused of creating this hoax, what Lib believes is a hoax. As time goes by, Lib is taken with the girl, and yet still she believes firmly that this child must be being secretly fed. Receiving only spoonfuls of water a day, observed by herself and the Nun, how can she have survived for this long?

    Anna exudes an aura of benevolence to all those around her, she is quietly accepting of both those who believe in her “miracle” and those who do not believe. Lib has learned to build emotional walls.

    The details are where Donoghue shines in this historical, fictional tale that immerses you in the setting, the people and the time. The dirt roads, the countryside, every detail about life on the O’Donnell farm, and yes, even the fairies.

    This does have a sense of mystery to it in that so many are trying to prove their side of Anna’s story. Is she surviving on air and water alone or is she somehow obtaining nourishment some other way? There are over 50 cases documented between the 16th and 20th century, of what were termed “Fasting Girls” in Europe and North America, even though that’s a lengthy period of time for only a relatively small number of cases, why would anyone choose to fast permanently?

    Religion is ever present in this story, but it is neither in a positive or negative way. It’s simply the background of the story. There are some recitations of prayers by the girl, Anna, which I was aware of… and I am aware there are others who try to avoid overly-Christian novels, and others who avoid novels with too many “naughty words” - my opinion is that you are “safe” on both of those accounts.

    Pub Date: 20 September 2016

    Many thanks to Little, Brown and Company, NetGalley and to author Emma Donoghue for providing me with an advanced copy for reading and review.

  • Linda O'Donnell
    Nov 03, 2016

    "Everybody was a repository of secrets."

    Emma Donoghue presents the multifaceted story of a young English nurse, Lib Wright, who has been assigned to a remote Irish village. As a well-trained apprentice of the famous Florence Nightingale, Lib has attended to the needs of many a patient, especially those wracked with wounds and eventual death during the Crimean War.

    But this patient.....This patient is a frail smidge of an eleven year old lass who has not taken food in four months according to her

    "Everybody was a repository of secrets."

    Emma Donoghue presents the multifaceted story of a young English nurse, Lib Wright, who has been assigned to a remote Irish village. As a well-trained apprentice of the famous Florence Nightingale, Lib has attended to the needs of many a patient, especially those wracked with wounds and eventual death during the Crimean War.

    But this patient.....This patient is a frail smidge of an eleven year old lass who has not taken food in four months according to her family and the village doctor. Lib must stay within the O'Donnell household and verify this as truth. She and a staid nun take shifts to monitor young Anna and document her daily routine as well as observing the family setting.

    Anna surrounds herself with the comfort of holy cards and Scripture. The waft of Irish folklore and the wee people traipse in and out as Lib tries to make sense of it all. Not only is Ireland itself so foreign to Lib, but its culture, religious beliefs, and customs perplex her even more.

    How can anyone exist on a spoon or two of water each day?

    A well-played hoax or a miracle in the making?

    The tension escalates as Lib befriends a young male journalist from Dublin who wishes to engage in conversations about this "Fasting Girl". Lib is caught up in a web of trying to sustain her professionalism, and at the same time, give in to the maddening desire to lay out all the irregular pebbles of stone before her.

    "None are so blind as those who will not see."

    Donoghue does a fine job of shifting the storyline into a well-tuned crescendo at the end. That was worth the price of admission. Although a fictional account of the young Anna, the author was inspired by almost 50 accounts of Fasting Girls going for long periods of time with no food between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries.

    A fascinating read with a highly unusual topic that I've never encountered before. And so well-done

    by the very talented Emma Donoghue.

  • Taryn
    Sep 12, 2016

    Eleven-year-old Anna O' Donnell insists that she's been living off the manna of heaven for the last four months and no longer needs food to survive. Her parents and community seem to blindly accept the claim. People travel from great distances for a chance to interact with this living miracle. To appease any skeptics, a committee hires two watchers to observe Anna over a two-week period. One of the watchers is Lib Wright, a nurse who worked under Florence Nightingale during the Crimea

    Eleven-year-old Anna O' Donnell insists that she's been living off the manna of heaven for the last four months and no longer needs food to survive. Her parents and community seem to blindly accept the claim. People travel from great distances for a chance to interact with this living miracle. To appease any skeptics, a committee hires two watchers to observe Anna over a two-week period. One of the watchers is Lib Wright, a nurse who worked under Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War. She considers resigning as soon as she finds out the details of the job, but decides to keep her commitment with the assumption that she'll be able expose the hoax in couple of days.

    Lib arrives on the scene ready to expose the girl's deception. She searches every nook and cranny for the tiniest of crumbs and keeps meticulous records of all the girl's vital signs. She is concerned about the integrity of the investigation, because she doesn't fully trust the the second watcher, a nun, to be as scrupulous with her observations. As Lib spends time with the girl, her attitude softens and her concerns become more complicated.

     I felt every bit of Lib's psychological journey as if it were my own. I desperately clung to the hope that one of the adults in Anna's life would take control of the situation. It was frustrating to watch the obviously capable nurse being disregarded and being forced to make

    in hopes that the

    would listen to her concerns. Even though I could relate to Lib's incredulity, I liked when her preconceived notions were called into question. The skeptical journalist William Byrne makes her confront her homeland's part in intensifying the culture she has been so prejudiced against. She admonishes one character for telling Anna a "lurid" religious tale, but she discovers that she had greatly misinterpreted the situation:

    In the Authors Note, Donoghue tells how she was inspired by the phenomenon of Fasting Girls between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. The characters that Lib encounters were affected by the Irish famine, which ended seven years before Anna's fasting began. Lib's background leads to interesting reflections on the many lessons she learned from Florence Nightingale. 

    Most of the scenes are set in Anna's bedroom or in the spirit grocery that Lib is staying in, with occasional jaunts into the bog lands. It feels even more isolating because of Lib's culture shock.

    Language is a very important element of the story. There are many miscommunications and misinterpretations. Each chapter begins with a single word and it's multiple definitions, calling attention to the numerous ways that words and phrases can be interpreted. This also comes across in the riddles that Lib uses to entertain Anna.

    Lib spends her two weeks in Athlone grappling with the incredible situation she has been thrust into and attempting to logically find a solution to this real-life riddle.

    All the questions I needed answered kept me captivated to the very end. Why did Anna suddenly decide to stop eating? What are the potential motives for the adults in her life to play along with a charade that would endanger a child? How has she survived four months if she has only consumed spoonfuls of water? How have they been sneaking her food and who is responsible? Is it possible that she really is a miracle? Will Anna survive the fast? Will Lib convince anyone to listen to her concerns? How will she overcome her ethical dilemmas?

    _________________

  • Larry Hoffer
    Sep 05, 2016

    Emotional, at times disturbing, and tremendously thought-provoking,

    once again demonstrates the sheer power of Emma Donoghue's storytelling ability, which first dazzled me with the extraordinary

    .

    Lib Wright was a nurse alongside Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, escaping her own personal issues. But after the war, even for a Nightingale Nurse, life is monotonous; she is treated with disdain by her supervisors and fellow nurses, and is left to little more than menial

    Emotional, at times disturbing, and tremendously thought-provoking,

    once again demonstrates the sheer power of Emma Donoghue's storytelling ability, which first dazzled me with the extraordinary

    .

    Lib Wright was a nurse alongside Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, escaping her own personal issues. But after the war, even for a Nightingale Nurse, life is monotonous; she is treated with disdain by her supervisors and fellow nurses, and is left to little more than menial work. But when an unusual opportunity for work comes her way, she jumps at the chance.

    Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell is growing up in a small Irish village. She claims not to have eaten anything for several months, and says she is subsisting on manna from heaven. Anna and her family have become a sensation throughout Ireland and England, journalists have covered the story with a combination of skepticism and hope, and people have begun to flock from all over the world to spend time with the "wee wonder."

    Lib, along with a nun who is also a nurse, is hired to watch Anna around the clock, to prove whether Anna's claims are true. They are to watch Anna for two weeks, trading shifts, and then report on their findings, which would determine if the girl is the miracle which some claim she is, or if she is perpetrating some kind of fraud.

    Is the girl getting some sort of secret nourishment, or is she really surviving on manna from heaven? Lib, who doesn't share the same religion as the O'Donnells or most of Ireland's citizens, is instantly skeptical, and believes she will uncover the truth fairly quickly. She searches for any way that Anna could be sneaking food, or if her family is in on the lie. But as she gets to know Anna, and understand where her religious devotion comes from, she finds herself doubting her own training and religious beliefs, and wondering if Anna really is part of a miracle.

    But as Anna's condition starts to decline, Lib must decide what her true role is: is she merely investigating Anna's claims, or is she responsible for protecting the child, even if those around her might be endangering her? How can she go against her mentor's training, to remove any emotional involvement with her patients?

    posed some interesting questions, and Donoghue unfurled her plot and ratcheted up the tension, little by little. While I had my suspicions about how the story would tie itself up, it is tremendously compelling from start to finish, although it certainly was a little disturbing as well, because I don't understand the type of religious devotion which imbued the characters.

    This book reminded me a bit of Ian McEwan's

    , in that its protagonist faced an interesting emotional and ethical dilemma which they thought they would be able to solve fairly quickly given their professional expertise, but then found themselves drawn in beyond their expectations. Donoghue did a great job with this story, which made me think as it made me feel.

    NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

    See all of my reviews at

    .

  • Carol
    Oct 26, 2016
  • Dem
    Oct 01, 2016

    (Quote from The Wonder)

    The setting for Emma Donoghue's novel is the Irish Midlands about seven years after the end of the potatoe famine in Ireland. This location is approx 20 miles from where

    (Quote from The Wonder)

    The setting for Emma Donoghue's novel is the Irish Midlands about seven years after the end of the potatoe famine in Ireland. This location is approx 20 miles from where I reside and I was eager to see how this historical novel would read for me.

    An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story. Set in the Irish Midlands in the mist of a close knit Catholic community in the 1850s. The Wonder - inspired by numerous European and North American cases of 'fasting girls' between the sixteenth century and the twentieth.

    This is such an atmospheric novel, and the author really captures a wonderful sense of time and place. The harshness of the landscape and the lifestyle of the people really draws the reader in. The country people are ruled and in fear of their religion. The customs and language and superstitions of the time is so accurately portrayed in this beautiful written tale and while not new to me being Irish and very aware of my heritage I appreciate historical fiction well written and based on facts.

    (Quite from The Wonder)

    This novel is a brooding and moving story that is haunting and wonderfully athmospheric. Another good reads's friend said it reminded her of

    and I couldn't agree more.

    I had intended to listen to this book on audio and did try the audio sample but this one worked better for me on kindle and my thanks to

    for the opportunity to read this one.

  • Emily May
    Sep 23, 2016

    So much. I can easily see why it won't be for everyone - truth be told, the plot moves fairly slow - but I was just so engrossed in the story and atmosphere. I suppose it just depends how much this k

    So much. I can easily see why it won't be for everyone - truth be told, the plot moves fairly slow - but I was just so engrossed in the story and atmosphere. I suppose it just depends how much this kind of tale appeals to you; whether or not you want to know more.

    It starts in a dreary, rainy Ireland in the latter half of the 19th Century, shortly after the Crimean War. Lib Wright is an English nurse who served under the legendary Ms Nightingale and she has been brought to Ireland to watch over a new patient - 11 year old Anna O'Donnell whose parents claim she has not eaten anything since her last birthday, four months ago. Lib and a nun work shifts to observe the girl - to try to discover if and how she is taking any food, or if she has somehow managed to survive without it.

    I was completely absorbed into the mystery of what was going on in this quiet, rural Irish village. How could she have survived without food? Was it all a crazy scheme invented by the family? Could something else underhanded be going on? Or could it really be an act of God like so many of the locals seem to believe?

    Lib's increased frustration was one I shared - a need to discover the truth. A need to solve this simple but baffling mystery. Between the

    and its

    , I got so caught up in everything. And I think so much of it comes down to one thing:

    .

    is a very

    . But it's quiet and pastoral too; more of a

    Gothic than a

    . Lib is alone in this little bubble, in the very centre of Ireland, far from what many would deem to be "civilization". The family’s superstitions about the little folk and the small discoveries that Lib can’t explain add an eeriness that permeates the entire book.

    As I was reading the book, nothing supernatural had actually happened, and yet I felt an overwhelming sense of otherness. Like something was not quite right; like being in this tiny, unknown place in Ireland was somewhat like stepping into another world where the paranormal was possible.

    I absolutely needed to know what was happening. I needed to know whether something otherworldly was at play, whether this child was being betrayed by those she should have been able to trust most, or whether she herself was behind it. I was pulled in by the atmosphere, by the mystery, and by the sexism that saw the local doctors dismissing Lib's opinions and cutting her off mid-sentence. Modern nursing was a very new thing at the time of this novel's setting and nurses were generally looked down upon by doctors, considered capable of watching and cleaning patients, but not offering a prognosis.

    was fascinating to me. I think there were many interesting themes floating around in this small-ish book, but I risk giving away spoilers by discussing them. Anyway, if this sounds interesting to you, go read it. I can't stop thinking about it.

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  • Deanna
    Jan 02, 2017

    My reviews can also be seen at:

    I've only read one other book by Emma Donoghue but I loved it. "Room" is one of my favorite books. Because I enjoyed it so much I was worried that anything else I read from the author would pale in comparison. However, after reading the description for "The Wonder" I was very intrigued.

    Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. A miracle girl who has apparently survived for four months witho

    My reviews can also be seen at:

    I've only read one other book by Emma Donoghue but I loved it. "Room" is one of my favorite books. Because I enjoyed it so much I was worried that anything else I read from the author would pale in comparison. However, after reading the description for "The Wonder" I was very intrigued.

    Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. A miracle girl who has apparently survived for four months without eating any food and who according to the local doctor is otherwise healthy.

    Libby Wright is an English nurse hired to keep watch over Anna for two weeks, alongside another nurse who happens to be a Nun.

    Libby as well as many others believe what's happening to be a hoax. Someone must be feeding this child. How could she possibly survive on just spoonfuls of water? Others believe Anna truly is a miracle girl.

    It's not long before Lib becomes very attached to Anna. Will she figure out what's going on? Can she save Anna?

    I really enjoyed this book. I was pulled into the story very quickly and hated when I had to put it down. I love the way Emma Donoghue writes. An amazing and unique plot with such great characters. I was desperate to find out what was going on and was extremely satisfied with how it all came together in the end.

    I can't wait to read more from this wonderful and talented author.

    Thank you NetGalley, Brown and Company, and Emma Donoghue for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.