The Wonders: Book summary and reviews of The Wonders by Paddy O'Reilly

The Wonders

by Paddy O'Reilly

The Wonders by Paddy O'Reilly X
The Wonders by Paddy O'Reilly
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2015
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

From the author of the "funny, irreverent, and highly entertaining" (Liane Moriarty, author of The Husband's Secret) Fine Color of Rust comes a brilliant new novel about a misfit trio who become instant international reality stars, probing the nature of celebrity, disability, and the value of human life.

Perhaps every human being was a freak. Hadn't he read somewhere that every person has at least a handful of damaged genes? That all humans embody a myriad of nature's mistakes?

Meet Leon (stage name: Clockwork Man), a nervous, introverted thirty-year-old man with a brass heart; Kathryn (stage name: Lady Lamb), a brash, sexy woman covered almost entirely with black, tightly furled wool; and Christos (stage name: Seraphiel), a vain performance artist who plays a winged god with the help of ceramic implants inserted between his shoulder blades. These are The Wonders, three extraordinary people whose medical treatments have tested the limits of the human body. When they are brought together by a canny entrepreneur, their glamorous, genre-defying, twenty-first-century circus act becomes a global sensation. But what makes them objects of fascination also places them in danger.

With warmth, humor, and astonishing insight, Paddy O'Reilly has written a wonderful novel that will appeal to fans of Sara Gruen's Ape House, Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Teddy Wayne's The Love Song of Jonny Valentine—or anyone who's ever questioned the nature of fame, our kinship with the animal kingdom, and the delicate balancing act of life and death.

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Wonders:

According to O'Reilly's research, some of the procedures in the world she has created are not far off from what some people already undergo. What do you think will happen with medical technology in the future?
There will probably be some wonderful advances as well as all sorts of strange new surgeries. The flip side is the pushing of drugs for all sorts of newly-named ailments. People who don't live in the United States are often astonished when they ... - rebeccar

Are Leon, Christos and Kathryn typically normal? How do you define normal?
When I see this question, instead of an answer, another query pops into my head: When everyone is different, what is normal...? The term normal is very subjective. Normalcy within groups can be described, but is there a global normal, other than ... - asha

Consider how in today's world some animals are used for scientific research and commercial product testing, and yet others are our beloved pets. What are your thoughts on our treatment of animals?
My daughter was a biochemist at a pharmaceutical company for a few years after she graduated from college. Her job was to "sacrifice" rats and dissect their livers for drug damage. She said those rats seemed to have distinct personalities and she ... - deeh

Do you think the reality shows on television today make freaks out of normal people?
I feel that all the posts so far have nailed it. I especially appreciate jww's insight. What struck me was how the celebrities fell into line with their own fascination with The Wonders, being willing to pay dearly for a small amount of time with ... - AubLibDir

Do you think the Wonders function as a family? Explain your reasons.
I feel that the answer to this is absolutely, yes. They might be the only chance they have to feel a sense of family and relax, not having to keep up the publicity persona. - rebeccar

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Media Reviews

Starred Review. The impossible slides skillfully into the believable here; O'Reilly's delightful novel never shirks its responsibility to emotional truth as it tells a story about being known and being different." - Kirkus

"The Wonders asks how and why those who differ from the norm are desired or condemned by those who sit comfortably within it. This insight into the private lives of extraordinary people is reminiscent of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, and The Wonders has a similarly broad appeal." - Books + Publishing Reviews (Australia)

"The Wonders is a surreal and exotic thing, a finely wrought interrogation of the ways we navigate being human and the presumptuous shambles we make of much of it... O'Reilly controls their intricacies with the sureness of a tightrope walker." - Weekend Australian (Australia)

"[O'Reilly] has a light touch when it comes to irony, allowing her to explore themes of difference, disability and celebrity in a way that is both playful and profound before changing gear and ramping up the psychological tension." - Booktopia (Australia)

"Bold and highly imaginative." - Australian Book Review (Australia)

This information about The Wonders shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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This Engaging Story Pulled Me In
Unlike some of the other readers who have reviewed The Wonders, I happened to really enjoy this unusual book. I found the main characters interesting and engaging and their relationships important, and I was happily willing to be pulled into the fantastical storyline of the book. The ending felt somewhat rushed to me, but not so much so that I would be willing to pan the book. I would have liked to have had a little more of a lead in to the ending, and perhaps an epilogue to develop more fully the period of time after their lives all changed.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story that pulls in some fantasy into our world. The circus theme will also appeal to readers of Water for Elephants, or those with connections to animals who have been displayed for people in zoos or compounds, such as Pi's character in Life of Pi.


Something Always Seemed Missing
I struggled with whether or not to rate this book a 2 or a 3. Something just never clicked for me on this one.: characters didn't seem compelling, the plot line seemed forced at times, and the premise of this trio traveling around together simply lacked something for me. I did like the fact that the author mentions animal cruelty in circuses as large wild animals are forced to learn tricks.
And since I always try to find something in every book that could be discussed, here are possibilities for this book : (1) As Chapter 18 ends, the possible discussion could be - Is anyone who they say they are. (2) On page 121 a character has left the circus to work for the USPS. Would you (the reader) do this or would thrills be better than routine?


Thirsting for more!
I received this book as a club read from Bookbrowse.

It was page turner, but not necessarily a satisfying read...
That being said, the book explores body alteration, voluntary and otherwise very expertly. It questions one's perception of 'normal'.
The marketing aspect of the Wonders was a brilliant portrayal, but somehow, the full package lacked heart, (no pun intended).

The circus angle was very well depicted, including the allusions to abuse of animals and performers. On the one hand, this story has so much potential and yet, I was left wanting more details...

Paula Jacunski

great premise, but doesn't deliver
The first two chapters really grabbed me; interesting premise, and great writing. But the characters never really developed; I didn't feel like I saw into their personality other than what was on the surface and their main reason for being in the book. The writing became disappointing as well, and inconsistent. Some well written stretches. I'm not a knitpicker and usually ignore odd phrases, but there was one near the beginning (page 8) describing "oiled rocket leaves"...I moved on at first, but then it began to bug me...what on earth are oiled rocket leaves? And I finally remembered rocket is a salad green; rather obscure though, and doesn't add anything to the scene.

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Author Information

Paddy O'Reilly Author Biography

Paddy O'Reilly's latest novel is The Wonders, published in August 2014 in Australia by Affirm Press and February 2015 in the USA by Simon and Schuster.

Her previous novel The Fine Colour of Rust (HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster), was released in 2012 in Australia, the UK and the USA. It was shortlisted for the ASAL Gold Medal.

Her short story collection, The End of the World (UQP) was published to critical acclaim in April, 2007. The stories in the collection have won a number of national and international story awards. The End of the World was chosen as one of the year's best books in various publications from Australian Book Review to The Financial Review. It was shortlisted in the Queensland Premier's Literary ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Paddy O'Reilly's Website

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