Twelve-year-old Sarah Jacob is a minor celebrity in 19th-century Wales because of her condition. She has not eaten food for two years, and her dedication to fasting and God have caused the devout and curious to flock to her bedside. American journalist Christine is intrigued by Sarah's story and decides to leave her own home, full of grief since her husband's death in the Civil War, to travel to Wales and write about Sarah. As Christine connects with Sarah and her family, Varley O'Connor spins the fascinating yet sad tale of Sarah's starvation and death, and the later trial of her parents.
O'Connor (The Master's Muse) reveals this dark story through the eyes of Christine and those closest to Sarah, and she unflinchingly details Sarah's deteriorating condition, past sexual abuse and decline into death. Christine's research for her article combines the story of the Jacob family with historical documents published during the period. Her experiences in Wales are just as fascinating as Sarah's, and her struggles as an older woman journalist in the 19th century are compelling in their own right. Sarah is caught in the middle of politics, scientific debate and religion, but benefits from none of them. It's a dark story that's hard to believe, but utterly compelling to read. --Amy Dittmeier, adult services librarian, Brookfield Public Library, Ill.