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Emma Donoghue's The Wonder

DonoghueI predict that this book, with a mid-September publication date, is going to be a huge success for both individual readers and for book clubs.

Set in rural Ireland in the 1850’s, this work of historic fiction is based on dozens of so-called “fasting girls” who seemed to live without eating.

Eleven-year-old Anna McDonnell appears to be alive and well after four months of not eating. She takes only a few sips of water each day, no food; surely she must be a living miracle! A miracle girl in their midst would be a miracle for this small, poor parish. Visitors arrive from around the world to pray with Anna, touch the hem of her garment, and leave a coin or two in the alms box bolted to her family cabin.

Eager to prove to naysayers that Anna indeed is a miracle, her physician, Dr. McBrearty, and the community hires two nurses to bear witness, in round the clock shifts, for two weeks. One is a Catholic nun, the other, Mrs. Lib Wright, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale. Mrs. Wright’s suspicions about the miracle child fly in the face of those who wish to profit from Anna. Lib questions everything, and everyone, determined to come to the truth. Secrets in Anna’s family, and a building sense of suspense kept me turning the pages, drawing me through the book in a very short two days.

Donoghue is the author of Frog Music and the thriller Room, which was made into a popular movie last year. Unlike some authors, each of Donoghue’s books is unique from the others. I highly recommend The Wonder, and look forward to discussing it with my book groups!


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