THE WONDERFUL by Saskia Sarginson


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A young woman tries to unravel the mystery at the center of her life.

Set between 1957 and 1981, Sarginson’s (The Other Me, 2016, etc.) latest follows the American Delaney family as they relocate to a U.S. airbase in England. Brought to the U.K. on a highly confidential assignment, war hero Todd brings along his wife, Ruby—a frazzled, beautiful homemaker—and their 12-year-old twins, Hedy and Christopher. Though extremely close, the twins could not be more different. Hedy, a tough tomboy, feels extremely protective of her gentle, sensitive brother, who suffers from extreme scoliosis and likes to write fiction. As the family tries to adapt to their new life, strange events begin to occur: Bright lights appear in the sky; people lurk in the forest; screams rise from underground; and Todd’s behavior becomes increasingly odd. After a traumatic, life-changing incident rips her life and family apart, Hedy is sent to live on her uncle’s farm. She spends the rest of the novel trying to figure out the truth, in part by using her brother’s unfinished story, "The Wonderful.” Rooted in history, the novel touches on themes like Cold War paranoia, segregation, bigotry, homosexuality, and mental illness. Broken into three parts—“The Base,” “The Farm,” and “The Forest”—the novel has slightly odd pacing. The first third is given far more breathing room than the other two, which leads to an uneven reading experience and leaves the reader wanting more at the end. Despite this, Sarginson’s writing propels you forward with its strong characterization and quiet beauty: “...and then the slow and sometimes fumbling discovery of being unexpectedly twinned with another…the knowledge that she would not be alone again.” The reveal at the end forces readers to reconsider the whole novel, which is interesting and bolsters the wartime paranoia themes.

A gripping and devastating tale of a family torn apart by secrets, war, and human brutality.

Pub Date: Dec. 10th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-08351-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2019


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