Hmmm. I’m not sure about Emma Donoghue’s stories. I was unable to put down Room, but found Frog Music to be irritating, and I didn’t finish Life Mask as I got bored with the story. The Wonder was intriguing, but there is always a streak of nastiness in this author’s stories.
‘The Wonder’ is an 11-year old Irish girl named Anna, who has supposedly not eaten for months, and is instead said to be sustained by ‘manna from heaven’. Lib, a nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, along with a nun, have been engaged by a local Catholic committee to provide a constant watch on Anna, to determine the truth about her eating habits. Anna’s family and many of the locals are deeply religious and they, along with visitors who make a pilgrimage to Anna’s home, believe she is a saint in the making.
Lib is not religious, believing in science instead. She suspects Anna is being fed secretly by someone but is unable to work out who by, and how they are managing this. Lib comes to care for Anna and suspects that the girl is being manipulated by others either for financial gain or to ‘create’ a saint, and she becomes increasingly afraid that Anna will starve to death during the watch.
The story is well written and I could not have stopped reading without finding out how the story ended, but the nastiness that is always somewhere in an Emma Donoghue story has coloured my enjoyment of the book. I liked the characters of Lib, Anna and a journalist who sniffs around looking for the true story, but I found the religious zeal of the remaining characters to be so over the top that I could not like them. The local doctor was a particularly poor example of a person, as were other characters who should have protected Anna.
I admit to liking books which leave me feeling happy and uplifted more than those that portray misery, but will no doubt continue reading Emma Donoghue’s stories, which admittedly leave me with slivers of hope that no matter what, things might turn out to be okay.