‘The Wonder Lover’

Sometimes, I’ll read a book and sit down to write a review and simply have no words to explain how that book made me feel or what I loved about it. Sometimes all a book will leave me with is an indescribable feeling- a sense of its impact, something that words can’t really describe. That’s how I felt after reading The Wonder Lover by Malcolm Knox, so bear with me as I attempt to give you an adequate assessment of this amazing book.

I fell in love with this book when I saw it on the shelf of Harry Hartog in Woden, Canberra. The cover is just phenomenal. I love the Mad Men style silhouette, and the simple details like the embossed gold ring on the left hand of each woman. In my opinion covers should reveal something about the book. I’m not a fan of the obscure image with no real relevance to the text inside. I think you should be drawn in by a book from the moment you see it. Books are a package, the cover and title are just as important as the text (if not more in some respects as it is these things which form our first impression). It’s like food; no one is going to want to eat something that looks like vomit, no matter how good everyone tells you it is. It’s just not going to happen.

The thing that really got me about the book was the narration style. The Wonder Lover is the story of John Wonder. John is a husband and father. Three times over… He has three different families in three different countries. In each family he has a wife, a son named Adam and a daughter named Evie. The story of John Wonder, his trifecta of families and his final love is narrated by his children, the three Adam’s and three Evie’s. The children speak in this homogenous voice, narrating as a group and as an individual all at once. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised how significant this manner of speaking was.

The children are copies of each other. They are by no means the same people, but they, like their mothers, have been recreated in three locations to suit their father. To them it must feel as if they were seen by their father as a singular pair of children, repeated in three different setting with different ages and ethnicities, but no other variance. This narration style was so well-used by Knox, as the story is primarily focused on John Wonder, in fact we barely get any true details about the children until the conclusion of the novel. Their narration allows you to be engaged in the story of John’s polygamy while being given subtle reminders of the huge and damaging effects his lifestyle must have on his children.

My reading preferences tend to be pretty random, although I’ll generally lean towards realist novels more so than anything else, I would say I’m happy to read anything as long as it’s unique. The Wonder Lover certainly fit within that criterion. Both the content and the style of this book were so fantastically unique, it was such a pleasure to read.

When I was a small child with an overactive imagination, I used to imagine that my parents had secret families. In the hours that we weren’t together I would think about all the possibilities for these ‘others’, imagining that they had many duplicate families hidden in plain sight. This book did something that others rarely do; it took something that I had pondered over and made it real. It highlighted the logistics of a situation I myself will never experience and played out the perks and flaws. It outlined the logistics of secret families, detailing the effort and dedication that is so important when leading a double (or triple in the case of John Wonder) life. Basically, this book plucked and idea out of my head and played it out for me in the most beautiful way and I loved every single page. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.