The Wonder

Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9780316393874. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316393881. F
OrangeReviewStarIn 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.]
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