Thursday, August 6, 2015
Review: The Wonder of All Things
paperback, 304 pages
a review copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours
This is one of those books I know I'm going to be thinking about for a long time. Jason Mott's first novel, The Returned, was inspired by a dream, and was hugely successful. The Wonder of All Things explores territory that includes the spiritual realm, and asks big moral and philosophical questions. While The Returned asked what would happen if people began to suddenly return from the dead, The Wonder of All Things asks what happens when a young girl has the gift of healing.
Ava is an ordinary thirteen-year-old girl living in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. Her father is the town sheriff, and her mother, Heather is dead. Her father's second wife, Carmen, is pregnant. When the whole town of Stone Temple gathers for an air show, a plane crashes and Ava and her friend Wash are trapped beneath debris. It is then that the town, and the world, find out about Ava's gift. Captured on cell phone video is the dramatic moment when Ava heals her best friend; one moment Wash is bleeding from his side, and the next moment, after Ava lays her hands on the wound, he is completely healed.
Jason Mott uses the premise of this story to explore deep questions of the nature of loss, love, and the responsibility we all have to others. There is nothing simple or simplistic about The Wonder of All Things; Ava's gift is real, but it doesn't come without a cost. And when the world finds out about Ava's gift, the little town of Stone Temple becomes part of a media circus, with desperate people, religious seekers, a television preacher, and masses of reporters all chasing after a rather frightened young girl.
One of the techniques Mott uses in the novel is alternating chapters set in the present with flashback chapters that explore Ava's early childhood, and her close relationship with her mother, Heather. The flashback chapters are poetic and emotional, capturing the intense closeness of the mother daughter bond, and the deep sadness of Heather, who suffered from depression.
The other relationship that reverberates throughout the novel is Ava's friendship with Wash, whom she met when they both were six years old. I loved the friendship between these two characters, especially when the book-nerdy Wash reads Moby Dick out loud to Ava.
I imagine that The Wonder of All Things will be a book that sparks a lot of conversations; it is a perfect book club read, one that causes readers to consider the deeper implications of the questions raised by the book's events. All of the major characters have suffered some kind of loss, and many are struggling spiritually. The novel doesn't offer easy answers, but asks questions that the reader will reflect on long after closing the covers of this book. This is a riveting pager turner: highly recommended.
Jason Mott has an author web page for more information about his books: