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The Wonder Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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"Fascinating.... Like The Turn of the Screw, the novel opens irresistibly, when a young woman with a troubled past gets an enigmatic posting in a remote place.... Heartbreaking and transcendent and almost religious in itself."―Sarah Lyall, New York Times
"A fine, fact-based historical novel, an old-school page turner...Donoghue has written, with crackling intensity, about [spirituality's] power to destroy."―Stephen King, New York Times Book Review
"[Donoghue's] contemporary thriller Room made [her] an international bestseller, but this gripping tale offers a welcome reminder that her historical fiction is equally fine."―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Outstanding.... Exploring the nature of faith and trust with heartrending intensity, Donoghue's superb novel will leave few unaffected."―Sarah Johnson, Booklist (starred review)
"Donoghue demonstrates her versatility by dabbling in a wide range of literary styles in this latest novel.... The closely imagined, intricately drawn story possesses many of the same alluring qualities as her bestseller, Room. .... Donoghue's engrossing novel is loaded with descriptions of period customs and 19th-century Catholic devotional objects and prayers...[and] asks daring questions about just how far some might go to prove their faith."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Donoghue is known for her bestselling novel, Room.... [But] she is also well versed in historical fiction. THE WONDER brings together the best of all, combining a gracefully tense, young voice with a richly detailed historical setting."―The Millions
"Readers of historical fiction will gravitate to this tale."―Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
"A riveting allegory about the trickle-down effect of trauma."―Megan O'Grady, Vogue
"Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief all the while crafting a compelling story and an evocative portrait of 19th-century Irish provincial society."―Tom Beer, Newsday
"Donoghue's superb thriller will keep readers hanging on to every word, pondering how far one will go to prove her faith."―Liz Loerke, Real Simple
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The story is set in southern Ireland in 1859, over the period of two weeks. Lib is a widow who became a nurse after her husband of one year died. She was a Nightingale, as in trained by Florence, and was working in a hospital in England after the Crimea War. Her matron suggested Lib travel to Ireland to be a nurse in the O’Donnell household for two weeks. She agrees, but nothing is as she anticipated. Lib has been hired by a committee of townsfolk to “observe” 11 year old Anna O’Donnell for two weeks. The child has not eaten in 4 months and the committee wants to know if this is a hoax or divine intervention as the family claims. The child reports that she receives manna from heaven. People come from all over to see the devoutly religious miracle child. Lib and a local nun are to take shifts and simply observe to see if the child is taking in any food. Lib is out of place in Catholic Ireland and is convinced that the whole thing is a trick. She is a firm believer in facts and science and has nothing but disdain for religion. As she spends time with Anna, an unlikely friendship develops. Lib remains very skeptical of the family and some of the townspeople. She is befriended by a newspaper reporter sent there to cover the story. Together, they begin to discover the horrible truth. As Anna’s health begins to fail, Lib begs the local physician and the committee to end the watch period and intervene. She soon discovers that everyone has their own agenda, including building up the local church if Anna is declared a saint. Lib knows that she needs to act fast, but she is torn between duty and love.
There are so many lovely layers to this novel. The characters have hidden secrets, some of them quite horrifying. It is chilling to learn how far people will go to further their own desires. Far enough to endanger the life of a child and to convince her that she is doing the right thing by starving herself. There are themes of guilt, family loyalty, the goodness and dangers of religion, misperceptions and assumptions, and medical and moral ethics. The story is a slow burn that builds to some startling conclusions. The book is hard to put down and well worth your time.