Emma Donoghue can do what she wants.
I've now read three of her books, and they just. keep. getting. better. She is one of those authors who never does the same thing twice, and it's such a thrill to discover what she'll do next.
This time around, she zooms in close on a tiny Irish village, where an eleven-year-old girl named Anna has, it is claimed, been living for four months without food or sustenance of any kind. The locals, all devoted Catholics, call it a miracle. Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale herself, is decidedly more skeptical. Hired to watch over the girl and ensure that she isn't surreptitiously breaking her fast, Lib assumes the girl is a cheat and a liar, plans to expose her as such, and wrap up her vigil within a couple of days. However, as the days pass and she gets to know Anna better, it seems the truth will be more complicated—and heartbreaking—than Lib expected.
For an outwardly quiet, meditative historical novel, The Wonder is surprisingly suspenseful. I read it last week while on vacation, and I'm so glad I had Adam sitting right beside me in the airport as a captive audience, because every few minutes I just had to turn to him and make googly eyes over the latest development. “The shit's really hitting the fan now!” I'd say, and then ten minutes later I'd have to retract and say, “Okay, now it's really hitting the fan! I mean REALLY!” Not until the very last pages was I sure how it was going to turn out—and don't even get me started on the pain and suffering I experienced when I had to stop reading to board the plane at 94% read! I almost wish my Kindle hadn't told me how close I was to knowing the final resolution, because it was exquisite torture having to wait to finish it.
Emma Donoghue is one of my top five favorite writers. I absolutely loved The Wonder, and I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve next.
With regards to Little, Brown and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale today, September 20!