The Wonder Worker

by Susan Howatch

Hardcover, 1997

Call number




Knopf (1997), 529 pages


Young, lonely, and insecure, Alice Fletcher is on the verge of emotional collapse when she stumbles into St. Benet's Church to dodge the London drizzle. There, she witnesses a group of gifted healers led by the charismatic Nicholas Darrow. Gaining refuge at last, Alice is drawn--inexorably, seductively--into the complex network of relationships at St. Benet's healing center--as she falls immediately, dangerously, in love with Darrow himself. Yet Darrow and his cutting-edge clergy are not all what they seem. And while Nicholas's dazzling powers now threaten to ruin all he attempts to save--including his own disturbed marriage--Alice's devotion to him deepens. Then anbsp;nbsp;devastating tragedy transports her to the shocking center of truth. Yet fueled by her love for Nicholas and a boldly emerging intuition, she will hold together the lives spinning wildly out of control--as she herself is transformed forever.… (more)

Media reviews

in a sexual miscalculation, Darrow triggers a chain of events that pits the concept of demon-possession against murky definitions of mental illness and forces everyone involved to examine his or her ideas about God and humanity. After some slow going in the early chapters, Howatch engrosses the
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reader in this splendidly wrought, provocative novel of spiritual ideas.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member k6gst
Originally published in Britain as A Question of Integrity, this is the first of a trilogy set in St. Benet’s-by-the-Wall, a “guild church” in London with a mandate to serve the spiritual needs of workers in the city during the week, but with no corresponding parish or services on the
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weekends. The priest-in-charge is Nick Darrow, a psychic, healer, and exorcist, and he is surrounded in the St. Benet’s rectory with a menagerie that includes a young Irish curate, a superannuated one-time mentor that Nick rescued from collapse, a non-believing youngish spinster acting as cook-housekeeper, a cat named James, and a few others. The action of the story is about what happens when the wheels come off for Nick, and how his over-reliance on his gifts ultimately blinds him to grave dangers. Not everyone comes out alive.

This trilogy is an extension of Howatch’s six-part Starbridge series, which was set in a fictional cathedral city over the span of the middle half of the 20th century. Nick Darrow and a few other characters are carried from Starbridge into London for The Wonder Worker.

Starbridge rivals Trollope’s Barsetshire for a fully-realized ecclesiastical world. It knocked my socks off, and I swallowed it whole after reading the first, Glittering Images. If this sounds like your bag, start there.

Of course here at the Old Rectory we are partial to novels set in rectories. Besides the Starbridge and Barsetshire chronicles, I can also highly recommend Gail Godwin’s Father Melancholy’s Daughter, and Madeline L’Engle’s A Severed Wasp. Are there any other ecclesiastical novels you would suggest? I suppose we should also include monastic novels, like Brother Cadfael mysteries (first-rate), and The Name of the Rose, which hardly needs my recommendation.
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LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
What does a slightly overweight stay at home daughter do when her life starts to fall apart? She might find God, and since she is a character in a Howatch novel, you can bet she will end up in a church, peopled by real human beings, not spiritual zombies, who have real problems of their own.

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somehow healing happens.
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