By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
By R.J. Palacio (The Bodley Head, $21.95, softcover, 315 pages)
Tugging at the heartstrings, you too, will be moved by Wonder, in particular, the eager enthusiasm for life displayed by 10-year-old August Pullman.
Auggie, as he’s affectionately called, is a wonderful character, but early on he informs us: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse”. An emotional moment, but you feel compelled to continue reading.
Hints come slowly about his craniofacial abnormality, starting with him getting “a mushed-up face” at birth. After surgery to repair a cleft palate that has left a hole in the roof of his mouth, he eats “like a tortoise”.
He has cheeks “that looked punched in”, eyes that come down too far and what he hates the most about his ears is that they are “like tiny closed fists”.
Auggie has had 27 surgical procedures since he was born, and asks his mother “Is it always going to be like this”?
He is conscious of reactions to his appearance: disbelief, unfriendliness, concealed glances, the sniggering. He only feels ‘normal’ when it’s Halloween.
The drama begins when he goes to school, after having studied at home, and has to interact with a mixed bag of the human race—young and old. In a vulnerable moment his father points out that he is like “a lamb to the slaughter”.
He tells of a tumultuous year in fifth grade at Beecher Prep Middle School.
Palacio dissects well the shallow, petty-minded attitudes and affectionately translates it for a sweet boy.
Also sensitively portrayed, through first-person accounts, is the effect of Auggie’s life on friends and family, especially on his sister, Olivia.
The narrative ends on a wondrous note with an inspiring and far-reaching finale.
Some fundamental truths are explored about human behavior including an understanding of the value of kindness, how to behave and a solid resolution to be a better person.
Edition 406, 22 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.