Ever since I read Room, I have been a fan of this author’s work. I have been anxiously waiting for this novel to be released and I was lucky enough to find a copy as I was passing by my local library! I sat down and read this novel in one sitting, and if that isn’t testament to how amazing this story is then I don’t know what is!
An English nurse is called into a small Irish village on an unusual mission: she is to observe a miracle. 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell has been fasting for the lat 4 months and has been subsisting on simply water and “manna from heaven”, as she insists. In order to verify these claims, Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is sent to live in Anna’s village. The longer Lib stays there, the more she suspects that Anna’s fast may not simply be expression of faith but rather an attempt at slow murder.
This book was a compelling read that caught me from the beginning and held me all the way until the end. I don’t know much about Ireland, and I’m not familiar with its religious fervor, so that was a very interesting view to read about. I liked that Lib, who is the protagonist in this story, allows the reader to approach the religious fervor of the people with a healthy dose of cynicism. The journey begins slowly, as we get to know more about Lib and Anna, and all of the other characters. While most of the side characters don’t change throughout the story, it works well and provides the structure to keep the story in check. I love the relationship between Lib and Anna, and how it evolves as the story progresses. The first half of the book allows the reader to become well acquainted with the time period and the Irish culture, while also building up to the pivotal question of why Anna is fasting. The second half is also not as action-packed but the tension is overwhelming and undeniable; I was biting my nails and I could hear my heart beating faster with every page I read. I needed to know what Lib was going to do about Anna and I just had to know what the motive was behind the fast. I absolutely loved the ending; it was better than anything I could have hoped for and nicely wrapped up the story. This is a fantastic historical thriller, that is sure to delight everyone!