The Wonder by Emma Donoghue Book Review


The Wonder is a fiction novel about a young girl who voluntarily stopped eating, claiming that she hasn’t eaten in four months.  A mystery is entered into the story when a nurse is hired to watch over her.  It is the nurse’s job to find out how the girl is living without food.  Is this a hoax?

The author, Emma Donoghue, also wrote Room, which is another excellent book.


Anna, an eleven-year-old girl from a small Irish village, claims to have not eaten any food in the last four months.  Her parents are convinced that the child can live without food.   People outside of Anna’s village are calling them fools for believing that the child is living without food.

Consequently, a committee was formed and decided to mount a watch over the child to determine if it is a hoax. Dr. Brearty, the O’Donnell’s family physician, headed the committee.  They wanted only the best nurse, so they sent for one that Florence Nightingale trained.  They chose Lib Wright, who was young and widowed.  Living in London, Lib had travel expenses paid to come to Ireland where the O’Donnell’s reside. Another person hired for the watch was a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Michael.  The parents insisted upon someone with the same religious denomination and nationality be one of the people hired.  Both Sister Michael and the O’Donnell’s live in Ireland.

Upon arriving, Lib found out that the family was poor.  She had believed that they had money since they paid for all of her expenses while traveling from England to Ireland.  The family wasn’t spending their money, the committee was.  The family lived in a small cabin.  The maid in the O’Donnell household is Anna’s cousin, Kitty.  Malachy and Rosaleen O’Donnell had another child, a son named Pat, who died last November.  Anna is their only child now.

Lib’s length of employment was for a fortnight (14 days) to report if Anna ingests any food.  However, she thought after hearing her duties that she would be back home in a few days.  It wouldn’t take that long to find out the hoax because surely the girl is getting food from somewhere.  Lib’s only job was to find out where Anna was obtaining her nourishment.

Lib and Sister Michael were alternating eight-hour shifts to watch Anna nonstop for two weeks.  Lib just needs to figure out how the child is getting food secretly.  She monitors her the entire time during her shift and insists that there be no visitors.  She thought that it would only take one or two days to see how Anna was eating.


During her shift, Lib develops a friendship with Anna.  All day long Anna recites prayers and sings hymns.  The whole family, along with Sister Michael when she is there, prays on their knees several times a day.  Since Lib isn’t from the same religion, she is not aware of the traditions. From the very first day Lib met Anna, the child had recited the Dorothy prayer many times every day. Lib did not know the significance of it.

Anna tells Lib that she eats manna, which is sustaining her.  Rosaleen’s lack of worry about her daughter’s health dumbfounded Lib.  How can she allow her daughter to keep on fasting when it is diminishing her life?  Her mother comes in to see Anna twice a day.

Leave her be, Lib wanted to say.  But she held her tongue while Rosaleen bent down to rouse her daughter with a long embrace and murmured prayers.  Like something out of grand opera, the way she barged in to make a show of her maternal feelings twice a day.


The last thing Anna ate was the sacrament she had on her first Communion on her eleventh birthday.  She was the talk of the town being the amazing girl that doesn’t eat. Some people in the village says that it is a miracle that the girl can subsist on air.

Some people thought it was true that Anna was The Wonder and believed that it was a miracle that she could live on air.  After reading articles in the paper about it, visitors came from around the world just to see her.  Not everyone believed it, though.  One doctor came to the house to do an exam on Anna to check for himself if it was true.

“It’s Just as I suspected when I read about the case in the paper.”  The words sprayed from Standish’s mouth.  “In taking up this chit of a girl – and dignifying this charade by setting a formal watch – McBrearty’s made himself a laughingstock.  No, made this whole unfortunate nation a laughingstock!”

Turning away all visitors, including doctors and reporters from visiting Anna.  Lib didn’t want any interruptions because she needed to make sure no one secretly gave Anna food.

The time span for the whole book is two weeks, but every day is crucial.  The reader needs to read until the very end to find out what happens.


After reading Room, I immediately wanted to read Emma Donoghue’s other books. Room book review.  Her stories are entertaining to read.  The endings are unexpected, and yet so perfect.

The end of The Wonder emotes both sadness and joy to the reader.  In the beginning, I thought the story was over, and I knew how it was going to end, so what could fill 200 more pages?  I didn’t want to put the book down.  There was a lot of twists in the book, and I had no idea what was coming next.  I would read again.

The Wonder
Article Name
The Wonder
Anna, an eleven-year-old girl, claims to have not eaten any food in four months. Two nurses are hired to watch the child and report any evidence of a hoax.

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