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The Wonder


The Wonder

By Emma Donoghue

This story starts out very slowly. You may even want to stop reading, but don’t.

Tis’ the tale of an Irish girl who lived long ago in a small town.  She hadn’t eaten in four months and appeared to be fine.  “A miracle,” said some.  “A fraud,” said others.  To settle the matter, a committee was struck and two nurses of impeccable reputation were brought in to watch the child day and night. They were to observe her and determine whether she was eating or not.

Set in the mid 19th century Ireland, this visit into the past takes us to a time when the social mores were much more repressive than today.  Class hierarchy was important, the church was powerful and women were treated with disdain. Superstitions and belief in supernatural creatures like fairies were part of every day life.  What we would call impossible, they called a miracle.

You may ask yourself how anyone could even consider the possibility of a child not eating, but I think that we all want to believe in miracles.  We enjoy them.  It takes us out of our everyday humdrum lives and lets us dream a little.  I won’t spoil the ending, but I will tell you that the whole village became embroiled in this mystery. 

In the midst of the constant prayers and sacrifices, doctors, nurses, priests, family members, neighbours, journalists, and even visitors from abroad offered opinions and advice.  Thrown into this bubbling cauldron of confusion were the Roman Catholic beliefs of that time, which were a mix of papal doctrine and pre-Christian traditions. All in all, it makes for a fascinating tale.

By the way, the ending is worth waiting for.   It’s a cracker.

The Wonderby sonja_library