The Wonders By: Paddy O’Reilly

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What happens when three ordinary people undergo radical medical treatments that make them international curiosities? They become wonders.

Leon has a small visible mechanical heart; Kathryn has been cured of a rare genetic disorder but is now covered in curly black wool; while performance artist Christos has metal wings implanted into his back. Brought together by a canny entrepreneur, the Wonders are transformed into a glamorous, genre-defying, twenty-first-century freak show. But what makes them objects of fascination also places them in danger.

Challenging our ideas about celebrity, disability and the value of human life, The Wonders is a boldly inventive, acute and moving novel from one of Australia’s finest authors.

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Curious idea, isn’t it? A work of fiction that addresses what it is to be a celebrity, the definition of what it is to be disabled and the price of human life…I thought so too.

When I finished this book, I was confused. Is this a book about the price of being a celebrity? Is it about the meaning of disability? Is it about the varying degrees human exploitation? Or is it a love story? The answer is yes…this book is all of the above.

What began as a fictitious novel about three individuals with physical abnormalities who, depending on how you view the circumstances, exploit themselves and the public for money, became a soapbox for the woes of celebrity, and the definition of disability. I amend the author for their efforts to highlight some of the more overlooked parts of society, but I am unsure about O’Reilly’s success.

For me, the book was about human nature’s need assign labels and put people into categories, the reaction when someone doesn’t exactly fit and in the end how little this method of ordering the universe actually matters. For example, when “The Wonders” were introduced to the world, the disabled community struggle with their identity because why are these people making money from their disability? Or is having a mechanical heart, wool instead of skin and mechanical wings even considered a disability? What does this mean for the rest of the community? Are they “freaks” and therefore make us “freaks?”

While the public panics to label “The Wonders,” Leo, Kathryn and Christos discover who they are aside from their various abilities. Leo falls in love, Kathryn finds her independence, and Christos learns to love and respect someone other than himself.

The ending of this book is odd. **SPOILER ALERT** We are left with Christos and Leo after Kathryn is murdered from a kidnapping/ransom gone wrong. And each of the remaining “Wonder’s” moves on with their life. **END SPOILER** It is here, at the end of the book, that I stretch to find any value of entertainment or meaning in the book. I read books to make me think or loose myself in the dreams or life of another, but this book just narrated the bazaar situation of three unique people leading (what I would deem) “ordinary” lives. (Get a job, make money…just…life!?!) Nothing special.

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