“A fast didn’t go fast; it was the slowest thing there was. Fast meant a door shut fast, firmly. A fastness, a fortress. To fast was to hold fast to emptiness, to say no and no and no again.”
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue is about an 11-year-old child, Anna O’Donnell, who claims she can live without food. In fact, she claims her sustenance is manna from Heaven. Months pass and the child’s popularity grows within her small Irish village. Her popularity grows so much that a nurse from London is sent to watch her for a few weeks to verify Anna’s story. Or, rather, find out where she is getting food from, since the nurse in question does not believe Anna could possibly be surviving without any food and only a few teaspoons of water a day.
The Wonder is an interesting novel in that it is based on truth. While the actual events in this story did not happen the way Emma Donoghue depicts them, similar stories are actually more common than you might think. There are quite a few documented accounts of people who believe they do not require food to survive. It is also interesting in that The Wonder is dramatically different than Room, another one of Emma Donoghue’s books, which I read last year.
I am a little conflicted as to whether or not I like this book. Normally with a book where there is mystery involved, my marker to it being good or not is if I am able to guess the ending before I actually get to the end. I do not really want to guess the ending, but analyzing a book as I read it is basically second nature to me now. In any case, I did not guess the ending of The Wonder, though it did not surprise me all that much. At the same time, however, I am not sure I liked the way the book ended. I do not say that meaning I always have to like the ending of a book if it is a good book. I say that in the sense the ending disappointed me. It did not seem exciting to me. It let me down a little bit.
Even though I feel the ending let me down, the book itself was well written. It was quite a different style than Room. I enjoyed the style of this one a bit more than I did the style in Room. Perhaps this is a combination of progress on the writer’s end as well as the subject matter of the book. I also think things are different in The Wonder because Emma does not really delve into Anna’s direct perspective, though she does write from Jack’s in Room. I think this allows the book to get a little more serious than Room. Even though both books deal with a mature subject matter, filtering Room through a child’s perspective makes it more innocent. I remember saying in Room I wish it was a bit more dark, since I believe that was what I had wanted to read at the time.
So while I am conflicted, I think The Wonder is definitely worth the read. It does deal with an intriguing topic, so even though the ending let me down, it may not let you down. So, if you do decide to read it, I would love to know what you think. Do you think Anna is telling the truth? If someone is secretly feeding her or she is otherwise sneaking food, how do you think it is happening? Are any others involved? Leave your thoughts down below.
Title: The Wonder
Author: Emma Donoghue