The Wonders

A Novel

LIST PRICE $10.99
About The Book

From the author of the “funny, irreverent, and highly entertaining” (Liane Moriarty, author of The Husband’s Secret) Fine Color of Rust comes a brilliant new novel about a misfit trio who become instant international reality stars, probing the nature of celebrity, disability, and the value of human life.

Perhaps every human being was a freak. Hadn’t he read somewhere that every person has at least a handful of damaged genes? That all humans embody a myriad of nature’s mistakes?

Meet Leon (stage name: Clockwork Man), a nervous, introverted thirty-year-old man with a brass heart; Kathryn (stage name: Lady Lamb), a brash, sexy woman covered almost entirely with black, tightly furled wool; and Christos (stage name: Seraphiel), a vain performance artist who plays a winged god with the help of ceramic implants inserted between his shoulder blades. These are The Wonders, three extraordinary people whose medical treatments have tested the limits of the human body. When they are brought together by a canny entrepreneur, their glamorous, genre-defying, twenty-first-century circus act becomes a global sensation. But what makes them objects of fascination also places them in danger.

With warmth, humor, and astonishing insight, Paddy O’Reilly has written a wonderful novel that will appeal to fans of Sara Gruen’s Ape House, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Teddy Wayne’s The Love Song of Jonny Valentine—or anyone who’s ever questioned the nature of fame, our kinship with the animal kingdom, and the delicate balancing act of life and death.

Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Wonders includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

The Wonders travels deep into questions about the contemporary world that have concerned and moved me for many years. I wanted to ask: How are we to live in this brave new world? How are we to know one another?”
—Paddy O'Reilly

From the author of the “funny, irreverent, and highly entertaining” (Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies) The Fine Color of Rust comes a brilliant new novel about a misfit trio who become instant international reality stars, probing the nature of celebrity, disability, and the value of human life.

Meet Leon (stage name: Clockwork Man), a nervous, introverted thirty-year-old man with a brass heart; Kathryn (stage name: Lady Lamb), a brash, sexy woman covered almost entirely with black, tightly furled wool; and Christos (stage name: Seraphiel), a vain performance artist who plays a winged god with the help of ceramic implants inserted between his shoulder blades. These are the Wonders, three extraordinary people whose medical treatments have tested the limits of the human body. When a canny entrepreneur brings them together, their glamorous, genre-defying, twenty-first-century circus act becomes a global sensation. But what makes them objects of fascination also places them in danger.

With warmth, humor, and astonishing insight, Paddy O’Reilly has written a wonderful novel for anyone who’s ever questioned the nature of fame, our kinship with the animal kingdom, and the delicate balancing act of life and death.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. The Wonders asks what makes someone a celebrity. Why do we follow the exploits of celebrities?
 
2. Paddy O’Reilly has created a world that seems very much like the world we live in now, but with characters whose bodies have been radically altered. According to much of her research, some of these procedures are not so different from some surgeries people undergo today. What do you think will happen with medical technology in the future?
 
3. The animals in The Wonders are retired circus performers that have been given sanctuary. Consider how in today’s world some animals are used for scientific research and commercial product testing, and yet others are our beloved pets. What are your thoughts on our treatment of animals?
 
4. Leon is a shy man who must learn to present a confident public face when he is thrust into the world as a Wonder. We all have places where we ‘curate’ our image, such as Facebook or LinkedIn or online dating sites. How has the internet changed the way we present ourselves?
 
5. Kathryn has been reviled, then both adored and feared. O’Reilly has stated in an interview that the reaction to Kathryn is specific to her gender. What do you think O’Reilly meant? Why do you think Kathryn is treated differently because she’s a woman?
 
6. In The Wonders, Christos uses his own body to express his artistic vision. Average people are also permanently altering their bodies to express themselves more than ever before. Why have body modifications, such as tattoos and piercings and implants, become so popular?
 
7. Leon ponders the disability activists who questioned the role of the Wonders, asking himself, “Were he and Kathryn and Christos, the beautiful monsters, making everything worse for the different ones who were not beautiful?” What do you think? Why do the disability activists take issue with the Wonders?
 
8. Public figures, like the Wonders, are always the subject of gossip and rumors about their private lives. Were you surprised by any of the rumors that the Wonders found themselves subjected to? If so, which ones and why?
 
9. The novel explores many ways in which we look at one another. Sometimes we are encouraged to look; sometimes we are told not to stare. Why do you think the public is so interested in looking at the Wonders? Were you surprised by their daily lives given their notoriety?
 
10. The three Wonders begin the book as disparate people thrown together by chance. In what ways do their relationships change? Do you think the Wonders function as a family? Explain your reasons.
 
11. Leon is a complex character and is oftentimes conflicted when making decisions. Despite his reluctance to speak to the media and his doubts about Rhona, why do you think Leon agrees to travel to Melbourne to meet with her? What do you think he expects from their first meeting? What is so different about Rhona and the possibilities she offers him that makes Leon want to work with her?
 
12. At one point, Kathryn refers to Leon as the Tin Man. What parallels can you see in The Wonders and The Wizard of Oz? What other parallels can you make among Christos, Kathryn, and Rhona?
 
13. The Wonders raises questions about what it means to be normal. Are Leon, Christos, and Kathryn typically normal? How do you define normal?
 
14. What do you think O’Reilly means when she calls Kathryn “a wonder of the consciousness”? Kathryn’s body is transformed too, so what sets her apart from Leon and Christos, who she describes as mere “wonders of the body”?
 
15. Leon, having nearly died twice already, lives with acute awareness of his mortality; it’s not until the end of the book that he seems to really live. How would you feel and what would you do if you knew you didn’t have much time left to live?
About The Author
Photograph courtesy of the author

Paddy O’Reilly is the award-winning author of the novels The Factory and The Fine Color of Rust, as well as the short story collection The End of the World. She lives in Victoria, Australia. Find out more at PaddyOReilly.com.au or follow her on Twitter @Paddy_OReilly.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (January 2015)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476766379

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for The Wonders:

“In a novel that feels both sharply realistic and wildly, indelibly imaginative, O'Reilly offers a story about the stars of a glamorous freak show that sidesteps any expectations of sentimental quirk with wit and deep feeling…The impossible slides skillfully into the believable here; O'Reilly's delightful novel never shirks its responsibility to emotional truth as it tells a story about being known and being different.”

– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Full of the humour and quick wit that attracted readers to O’Reilly’s previous novel, The Fine Color of Rust.... The Wonders asks how and why those who differ from the norm are desired or condemned by those who sit comfortably within it. This insight into the private lives of extraordinary people is reminiscent of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, and The Wonders has a similarly broad appeal.”

– Books + Publishing Reviews (Australia)

“In The Wonders, O’Reilly uses difference to not only tell a great story, but to show us things that are so familiar we forget to notice them.”

– Kill Your Darlings Journal (Australia)

The Wonders is a surreal and exotic thing, a finely wrought interrogation of the ways we navigate being human and the presumptuous shambles we make of much of it.... Here, then, are basic human sensations played out against a backdrop of over-the-top circumstance and performance, and O’Reilly controls their intricacies with the sureness of a tightrope walker.”

– Weekend Australian

“O'Reilly makes Leon, the man with the metal heart, her primary focus. How he came by that heart and his need to reconnect with its maker add a level of mystery and intrigue to this thoroughly unpredictable modern day fantasy.... [She] has a light touch when it comes to irony, allowing her to explore themes of difference, disability and celebrity in a way that is both playful and profound before changing gear and ramping up the psychological tension.... O'Reilly pulls off a unique brand of magical realism with flourish.”

– Booktopia (Australia)

“An extraordinary demonstration of wondrousness – a terrific read.”

– Radio National (Australia)

“Bold and highly imaginative.”

– Australian Book Review

“O’Reilly’s skills are deployed in making the bizarre come to seem ordinary, and then jolting us into re-examining such a perception.”

– The Age (Australia)

“It’s a brilliant conceit, dystopian but not unimaginable, and the ideas Paddy O’Reilly explores are vital: the value of life, the nature of ability and disability, and the crushing importance of celebrity in our culture.”

– The Saturday Paper (Australia)

“A whimsical story ofcelebrity, trauma and self-acceptance”

– Shelf Awareness

The Wonders captures the fickleness and dark side of fame…[forming] a story that makes a reader question their own heroes’ longevity, and what fate awaits us all. The Wonders makes you wonder not at the miraculous characters, but at the ephemeral fame of our heroes.”

– The Daily (University of Washington)

Praise for The Fine Color of Rust:

“Delightful, laugh-out-loud funny, and unforgettable. I love this book.”

– Toni Jordan, author of Addition

“I adored The Fine Color of Rust. It’s funny, irreverent and highly entertaining. I was sad to finish it, and I still miss Loretta!”

– Liane Moriarty, author of The Husband's Secret

“Loretta is one entertaining, compelling narrator, funny and self-deprecating, with an acerbic wit and occasional histrionics that belie a deep love of the people around her, whether she likes them or not.... A truly moving surprise at the end reveals O’Reilly’s point all along, that there is value in things that don’t cost anything and true beauty in a pile of junk.”

– Booklist (starred review)

“O'Reilly's tale of a backwater Australian town seen through the eyes of Loretta Boskovic, who struggles to make ends meet and do good for her community, is hilarious and tenderly moving.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Paddy O'Reilly is a significant talent all readers should be aware of.”

– The Australian

The Fine Color of Rust is a story about love: where we look for it, what we do with it, and how it shows up in the most unexpected packages.”

– Big Issue (Australia)

“...[a] deliciously humorous, rural anti-romance.”

– Booktopia (Australia)

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