A plane crashes into the audience at a small town air show and two children are buried beneath the rubble. Ava and her best friend, Walsh, are stuck under the remains of the silo as her father, Macon, scrambles to save them. Unable to do so because of the instability of the structure, Macon watches as Walsh bleeds and fades before his very eyes, sure to die trapped beneath the ruins with his daughter.
Until Ava reaches out, lays her hands over Walsh’s injury and heals him.
This wonderful possibility, a child having the ability to heal and save her friend, quickly takes a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, Macon is not the only one who sees her heal Walsh. There are pictures, witnesses, and suddenly their small town is the center of a human maelstrom swirling with desperation, need, guilt and religion.
People travel from all over the world to converge on the town to see the miracle girl. Reporters swarm outside her home, outside her father’s work, her friend’s house and her doctor’s house. Preachers, nut jobs and desperate individuals come from all over to touch her, see her and demand for her to heal them too. In the face of one miracle blooms unrelenting blind hope for every dying, sick soul in the world. And the world seems to forget that all of this is being laid at the feet of a small, helpless, 13-year-old child. And no one, even her father, seems to notice what healing does to Ava herself.
With each healing Ava becomes weaker. She slowly loses weight, is wracked with chills, gains a cough and even goes blind temporarily. Her father struggles with the question of whether her gift automatically ensures an obligation to others or not. He is torn between keeping everyone at bay and asking Ava to help others. He doesn’t realize that as Ava heals, she pays the price of her own life.
To make matters worse, and better, each time Ava heals, she experiences a memory of her late mother, Heather. Memories of roaming in the forest together, going to the carnival, out on the road and just everyday mother-daughter moments. As Ava lets go of herself with each healing, she regains all the pieces of her mom that she didn’t realize she had lost.
“The Wonder of All Things” is a novel about humanity. It explores how the best parts of people – love, hope, compassion – can drive them to do horrible deeds. How people can get caught up in an idea and lose their capacity for basic human goodness while in pursuit of something they justify as more important. How we can all be blind to a truth right in front of us, if it’s a painful truth we aren’t ready to face.
This novel is beautifully written and despite the subject matter seeming to be a little – been there, done that – it is original and touching. The strongest part of the story is Ava and Walsh’s friendship. It becomes the one real thing for her to hold onto as she loses everything else. Their sweet, humorous connection brightens a deadly serious story that evolves around the seemingly simple but inevitably complicated question of what is right and what is wrong.