In a small Irish village in the 1850s a miracle is taking place. Or is it? Eleven year old Anna O’Donnell has been fasting for four months and yet is alive and well. Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, is sent to Ireland to watch the girl and report back to a committee about her findings. Is Anna a fraud or a blessed child?
Lib is confident that it’s the former, but as Anna begins to deteriorate, she struggles with her own complicity in the child’s ailing health. Her family and the local priest seem blind to Anna’s issues and desperate to believe she’s capable of living on nothing. Can Lib root out the evil?
This book is slooooooow. And repetitive. Much of the first two thirds is spent with Lib watching Anna to make sure she is not somehow sneaking food. As you can imagine that’s not overly exciting to read about over and over again. It really only picks up in the last fifty pages or so. It would be less painful to sit through if I had warmed to Lib at all, but I found her overbearing and obnoxious. She’s in a place she doesn’t know, surrounded by people who practice a religion she is not familiar with, and she is dismissive and rude and thinks she knows everything. Even when she is shown time and again to be wrong. It’s infuriating. Yes, everyone around her is acting crazy as a child slowly starves to death, but after the first couple of times of your behaviour not helping, wouldn’t you have a rethink?
I did like the ending, even though it is pretty ludicrous and improbable. The author also shoe-horns in a romance at the last minute which takes away from the relationship between Lib and Anna, and removes Lib as the ‘saviour’, if you will.
And again I had issues with the blurb for this book. On my cover it states ‘As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.’ Murder you say? How intriguing! And how would they be going about this? It’s part of why I picked up the book in the first place. And it’s nonsense. There’s neglect sure and being blinded by your faith, but not murder. I kept waiting for that part, for it to step up in its mystery, but it never happened.
Readable enough, but disappointing.