The wonder mentioned in the title is a young girl named Anna who lives in a small village in Ireland and has reportedly not eaten any food for four months. The protagonist is a widowed English nurse, trained by Florence Nightingale, who comes to the village as an impartial judge to examine the claims of the village. The nurse is judgmental of the poverty of the Irish village and skeptical of the community’s claim that this girl is somehow getting nourishment from God.
Lib the nurse ends up taking eight hour shifts, switching off with a nun, to stand by the child’s bedside and keep watch to make sure that she isn’t eating anything. Since Lib’s is the only point of view the reader gets, we don’t really know what the nun thinks of this, or what anyone else’s agenda is. The family does have a lot of visitors who leave money as offerings, so maybe they are in this to gain wealth. The village seems to prosper from having all these visitors, so maybe that is why the community wants to make this girl an attraction. Plus the priest might be in on it, wanting to gain fame for his church.
Eventually, Lib ends up being drawn to Anna, and as the days of observation go on, the girl grows weaker and weaker. Soon Anna is seemingly at death’s door, merely taking a few sips of water and no other nourishment. Lib feels conflicted, because her role is to observe, not to heal the child. No spoilers here, but the ending did come as a bit of a surprise. I felt like this book was very readable and I wanted to finish it quickly to find out what secrets people were hiding.
I probably could have been close to giving it five stars but I felt like it just leaped to conclusions a little bit at the end. I think the pacing of it was not quite right, and it’s hard to believe it takes place in a few weeks. Also I was a bit confused to exactly when it takes place and I kept looking up entries about Florence Nightingale on Wikipedia to see if I could figure it out. Lib seems just a bit too modern to be living in those days.