Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book Review: "The Wonder of All Things" by Jason Mott

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

It was an exciting day in the small town of Stone Temple, North Carolina. Many people were gathered to see a local man-turned-pilot perform in an air show for his hometown. But the show ended in tragedy, with the plane crashing into the crowd of spectators. Underneath the rubble, nestled in a small pocket of air, is 13-year-old Ava, the daughter of the town's sheriff, and her best friend, Wash. When Ava realizes that Wash has been injured by a piece of the rubble and lays bleeding near her, she places her hands on him and heals him.

The discovery of this miraculous ability of Ava's rocks her family, her town, and the country. She has kept this a secret from everyone except her mother, who died when she was younger, and so many in Stone Temple are angry that she has kept this miraculous talent to herself, since she could have saved so many people. But what everyone outside her family and friends don't comprehend—or even care—is that every time she heals someone, it leaves her increasingly weakened, both physically and emotionally. To continue doing so would be dangerous.

"There is always comfort in pretending that change has not happened in life, even when we know full well that nothing will ever again be the way it was."

Thousands of people descend upon Stone Temple, hoping that Ava will help them, and trying to make sense of her talent. Also arriving in the town is the Reverend Isaiah Brown, a charismatic television preacher who leads a large flock. While he wants to understand the religious reasons behind this miracle, he also has personal motives for wanting to find his way into Ava's life.

Much as he did in The Returned, where he explored the idea of people long-dead returning to the world of the living, Jason Mott raises many interesting questions to ponder in The Wonder of All Things. It's an intriguing, well-written, emotional novel that definitely makes you think. Is Ava's responsibility to heal people, even at great risk to herself? Or should she be able to live as "normal" a life as she possibly can?

I thought this was a good book, and enjoyed Mott's storytelling ability. I really enjoyed both Ava and Wash's characters, but found many of the other characters not quite as well developed. There were a number of plot points in the book that the moment they were mentioned I had an idea of what would happen, and I wish the story wasn't quite so obvious in places as it raced toward a conclusion. But in the end, I'm still thinking about Ava and Wash, and still left pondering the questions the book raised, so it definitely is both intriguing and affecting.

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