Saturday, September 1, 2018

Mini Reviews: The Wonder || Pull Me Under













The Wonder by Emma Donoghue


Genre: Adult historical fiction
Pages: 291
Publication Date: September 2016

An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.



Likes: The cover is so pretty! It’s even nicer in real life. The book’s premise is intriguing. In a deeply religious Irish town, an eleven-year-old girl has stopped eating and claims to survive on “manna from God.” The girl’s parents and the townspeople believe that this is a miracle and that the girl should be made a saint. The book is narrated by Lib, an English nurse who is sent to observe the girl and make sure she isn’t sneaking food. The premise made me eager to get into this novel. It’s not something I’ve seen before.

The story brings up a lot of fascinating ethical questions. Observers aren’t supposed to interfere with the subject they’re observing, but should they step in if the subject might be in danger? How much control should children have over their own bodies? Should they be allowed to make important decisions about their health? This is definitely a thought-provoking book.

The novel also shows how frustrating it was to be a woman in the 1800s. Lib has more medical training than the male doctors in town, but they disregard everything she says because she’s a woman. If you like feminist stories, you might like this one. Lib has to be creative and stubborn to get people to listen to her.


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




Dislikes: Calling this novel a “psychological thriller” is false advertising. There’s nothing thrilling about it. The plot is extremely slow paced. Lib spends weeks staring at a kid and trying to figure out where she might be getting food. The action picks up at the end, but being an observer is fairly boring.

I really disliked Lib at the beginning of the book. I understand that there are tensions between the English and the Irish and between science and religion. Still, Lib is dismissive and judgmental of the people in the town. If a kid is starving herself because of religion, shouldn’t a nurse want to understand that religion? Luckily, Lib becomes more tolerable as the story progresses.



The Bottom Line: If you’re interested in the fasting girl phenomena, then you might like this book. If you want to read something by Emma Donoghue, I’d recommend Room. It’s a lot more compelling than The Wonder.   











Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce


Genre: Adult literary fiction
Pages: 272
Publication Date: November 2016

Kelly Luce's Pull Me Under tells the story of Rio Silvestri, who, when she was twelve years old, fatally stabbed a school bully. Rio, born Chizuru Akitani, is the Japanese American daughter of the revered violinist Hiro Akitani—a Living National Treasure in Japan and a man Rio hasn't spoken to since she left her home country for the United States (and a new identity) after her violent crime. Her father's death, along with a mysterious package that arrives on her doorstep in Boulder, Colorado, spurs her to return to Japan for the first time in twenty years. There she is forced to confront her past in ways she never imagined, pushing herself, her relationships with her husband and daughter, and her own sense of who she is to the brink.



Likes: I love the beginning of this book. The plot sucked me in immediately. The main character, Rio, has a lot of secrets. She spent her childhood in a Japanese mental hospital after she stabbed a classmate to death at school. As an adult, she moves to the US and creates a whole new identity for herself. She hides her past from everyone, including her husband. I knew that Rio’s past would come back to haunt her, and I was excited to find out how that would happen. I stayed up late to read the first few chapters.

I have mixed feelings about books that are set in places I’ve been. It’s really easy to spot inaccuracies, but it’s also really cool to see places you know in fiction. I like that Pull Me Under is set partially in Boulder. The characters hike at Blue Lake, and so do I.


Photo I took of Blue Lake.




On a cloudless afternoon in the peaceful Shikoku city of Tokushima, twelve-year-old Chizuru Akitani, Japanese-American daughter of acclaimed violinist and Living National Treasure Hiro Akitani, walked into the staff room at Motomachi Elementary, covered with blood and clutching a letter opener. Panic swept the room, as people assumed the sixth grader, known for her introspective nature, had seriously hurt herself. The English teacher, Ms. Daniela Townsend, was the first to approach Chizuru. As she neared, the girl raised her palm and stilled the room with five words: ‘This is not my blood.’Pull Me Under




Dislikes: After the first few chapters, I started losing interest in the plot. The story becomes predictable. I felt like I was always several steps ahead of Rio and waiting for her to spot the obvious problems and do something about them. I was constantly tempted to skip ahead.

I don’t like Rio. She has no personality. Maybe that’s intentional? Maybe the author is showing that a person’s reputation can be very different from reality? In Japan, Rio is known as the violin prodigy’s daughter who went insane and murdered a kid. In the US, Rio is a boring nurse and mother. She’s very bland. It’s possible that she doesn’t want to be interesting. I don’t know. I wish we saw more of what’s happening inside her head.

The only fascinating thing about Rio is that she doesn’t feel bad about murdering a kid. She feels bad about being recognized and questioned about her crime by strangers. So, I guess she’s bland and self-centered. I had a hard time making myself care about what happened to her.



The Bottom Line: Great premise and beginning. I eventually got bored with the plot and character.









19 comments:

  1. Too bad those stories didn't seem to ring your bells.

    Stories where the characters go to places that you've been can be interesting. I've never been to Berlin (although I have been to Germany), but when I was reading Echoes a couple months ago, I could really tell that Alice Reeds was familiar with the city because of the detail in the book.

    I started writing a fanfic (I have too many other WIPs right now so it's on hold until 2019) that was modern-day, and I specifically had the characters live in Los Angeles and Phoenix and then travel to Colorado Springs because those were all cities that I was familiar with. I had the characters meet at the Phoenix Zoo because that was a place that I could describe from memory. Even then, I had to have them go to a King Sooper's that didn't actually exist because they were taking the bus and there wasn't a King Sooper's anywhere near the bus stop. I figured that I didn't have to be that accurate.

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    1. There are King Soopers all over the place where I live, so I wouldn’t question it. In a story I wrote, I put a police station where there isn’t one. If anybody ever reads it, I hope they forgive me.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. Sorry you didn't love The Wonder as much as I did! I guess I didn't know it was supposed to be a psychological thriller, so I had different expectations to begin with! :)

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    1. I’m glad you liked it! I expected more to happen in that book.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I have wanted to read both of these books. It sounds like The Wonder would still be something I would like, but now I don't know about Pull Me Under. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 👍✨

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  4. I have read Emma Donoghue's writing yet but I do have The Room whenever I get around to reading it. I have been curious about The Wonder but it does sound like it would be a slower story. I think that the characters in Pull Me Under would drive me crazy.

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    1. I read Room when it first came out. (Way before I started blogging.) I remember there being a lot more action than what’s in The Wonder.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. Yeah neither of these would suit me, that's for sure!

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  6. Do you not DNF? If I lose interest in the plot, I don't think I would keep reading. You're a better reader than I am. I couldn't even get past the cover of Pull Me under. Yes, I judge books by their covers.

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    1. I try really hard to DNF! I feel guilty about it. I always think that the book will get better at the end. And I’m broke, so I feel like I’m wasting money if I buy a book and don’t finish it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. The Wonder was anything but a thriller. I also thought the premise was interesting, but it was so slow and repetitive.

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  8. Wholeheartedly agree with all your thoughts on The Wonder. The plot was interesting, but by no means a thriller; slow paced, although in a good way at times, so I thought. Stunning cover! Would recommend Room over The Wonder any day.

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    1. I agree. The concept of The Wonder is so good! I would happily read another book about fasting girls. I just wish more happened in the book. Watching a kid be hungry isn’t thrilling.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I don't think I'll read Pull Me Under because aside from the beginning it sounds like it gets too predictable too quickly, and I'm not about that kind of read :P I do want to try something by Emma D but I think I will start with Room like you recommended. It sounds like that book needs a genre switch though! Otherwise more people might end up disappointed with not getting what they expect.

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