Reviewed: “The Wonders: A Novel” by Paddy O’Reilly

The WondersIt’s hard to be much more than… indifferent about Paddy O’Reilly’s “The Wonders: A Novel.”

There are things that work, and work fairly well, but there are more things that don’t really work. There’s just enough to make you want to see the story through to the end but… there’s every chance you’ll get to the end and be unsatisfied. But you’ll still be glad you read it. It’s not a book you’ll regret reading but it’s not a book you’ll badger everyone you meet into reading.

The plot mostly centers on Leon, a twenty-something Australian guy whose heart failed him. Just greedy enough to want to live, he agrees to an illegal, super secret procedure which all but alienates him from his family and the world around him. Until Rhona, a vaguely sketchy American woman looking to restart a 21st century, politically correct circus like the one her father (and there’s a “big” secret there that kind of fizzles for lack of relation to the larger plot) ran in the mid-20th century, shows up and offers him a new world. Together with Kathryn, a wool-coated woman thanks to a “miracle” cure for Huntington’s Disease, and Christos, a performance artist who gave himself wings (literally), Leon becomes one of “The Wonders.”

The idea – a politically correct “freak show” – would seem to be a commentary on modern society’s fascination with celebrity, weirdness, and fame and fortune. That part makes sense; The Wonders are feted around the world and get very rich in the few years before collective attention turns to someone else.

What doesn’t work is the slightly underdeveloped cast of supporting characters a reader is clearly supposed to be suspicious of, the constant allusions to earth-shattering secrets and revelations that come but certainly not with enough power to make a reader gasp.

I wish there had been more too it. I really do.

(I received a copy of “The Wonders” through NetGalley and Atria Books in exchange for an original and honest review. This review will be cross-posted on Goodreads, NetGalley, and my blog.)

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