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on January 14, 1998
The Wonder Worker, by Susan Howatch, is another in her series about spiritual struggles within the Anglican clergy. It is not technically a "Starbridge" novel, because it takes place in London, but it does include many of the same group of characters, with a few additions. Nicholas Darrow, a psychic priest, faces a moral dilemma involving pride and the misuse of his gifts. Caught up in his healing ministry, he flounders, blunders, then regains his spiritual equilibrium with the help of an irascible colleague and a formidable Roman Catholic nun. The plot is similar, in respect to the spiritual path of the protagonist, to the others in the Starbridge series. The reader need not have read the others in the Starbridge series to enjoy the latest work. However, readers will want to explore the previous Starbridge novels after reading The Wonder Worker. Spiced with intrigue and a particularly nasty bout with demons, the novel entertains and engages as it leads to the surprising denouement.
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on June 13, 1998
I have read all of the "Starbridge" novels and like other reviewers, found this one slightly less compelling. Why is it that I just want to shake Nicholas Darrow's wife, Rosalind and tell here to get the hell out of there? There is not enough interplay of the old families from the previous novels. Only brief encounters with Aysgarths and Ashfords, even Venetia fades in and out of the sub plot without much impact. This is still a good novel, but with the others I carried them round the house reading at every opportunity, this one has stayed firmly beside my bed - not a good sign!
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on November 29, 1997
"The Wonder Worker" is a good book. The characters are, for the reader, old friends, or maybe even enemies. Howatch reminds us, as in her other novels, things aren't necessarily what they appear to be. A new theme she emphasizes is we are always on a journey to health-spiritual, emotional and physical. For Nick and his staff at the Healing Centre the journey is fraught with hazards, demonic and otherwise. Make sure you have time to read this one. Although it was a bit over analytical for my taste I had a hard time putting it down.
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on January 22, 2001
Nick Darrow, the psychic Anglican priest, was one of my favorite characters in the 6 novel Starbridge series so I was very glad to see Susan Howatch reprise him in his 40s in this novel. He was much younger in "Mystical Paths," which took place before his ordination. Howatch told the Starbridge stories with one narrator in first person for each of the Starbridge novels. With this one, she returns to a device she used in her "Cashelmara" and "Penmarric" days of having alternating characters tell the story in first person. Nick has a ministry of healing and deliverance using his psychic powers. Lewis Hall, his former spiritual director, now lives and works with him. The danger for Nick is in the temptation to become a Wonder Worker. This is where he becomes a charismatic Christian healer who works in pursuit of his own fame and glory rather than God's. This book also has more of a love story develop within it than some of the other Starbridge novels did and you see it develop from the main characters' points of view. Venetia reappears from the Starbridge series also and takes up with Lewis Hall. These characters all reappear in the novel which came after this one, "The High Flier," but they are no longer the leads in that novel.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 5, 2000
I can't believe anyone below gave this book a negative review! It is quite simply the best thing Howatch has ever written and quite likely the best thing I have EVER read. Although some people may be erroneously put off by the Church of England theme that runs though her Starbridge books, they are quite simply the best psychological thrillers on the market.
The book is broken into several parts and told from several people's point of view. It describes the escalating chrisis surrounding Nicholas Darrow as his life spirals out of control on a collision course for disaster of nuclear proportions. Although the first few pages (lets say, 10, maximum) are a wee bit slow and one doesn't quite identify with Alice right away, by the 11th page, the pace begins to pick up (well, early in the book anyway!). From there, it was one headlong race until the unbelievable climax where I audibly gasped and realised that I had been holding my breath for the last 3 pages. It was that gripping and suspenseful! It's a fact, NO book has EVER gripped me that much to the point where the surrounding world completely ceased to exist for me.
As far as I am concerned, everyone who fails to read this book has missed out on one of the finest examples of literature ever written. If you never read another book again, do read this one!
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on May 6, 2000
The Wonder Worker was a disappointment. Although it contained all the elements I love about Susan Howatch -- her knowledge of the Church of England, her deft use of multiple narrators, and her ability to capture the spiritual dimension of human endeavor -- this work did not meet the standards of her previous Starbridge novels. The characters and improbable plotting were the problems. Besides Alice in the first section of the novel and a surprisingly deep Rosalind, the characters were unpleasantly self-indulgent and self-absorbed. It was impossible to find much redeeming about the misogynistic and homophobic Lewis, who was much more finely nuanced in Howatch's earlier Absolute Truths. Even worse, it was difficult to muster up many positive thoughts about Nicholas, the wonder worker himself.
An especially unpleasant aspect of the novel was its "MacGuffin," that is, the device or event that precipitates the crisis at the center of the novel. In this case, it was a tragic death. The other characters, Christian healers all, are so absorbed with saving their own skins and Nick's ministry that, with the exception of Alice, don't even bother to pray for their lost colleague. It makes one wonder why Nicholas' ministry was so worth saving.
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on January 1, 1998
On the back of this wonderful book there is a picture of Susan Howatch, smiling. Having just finished the last page, I now know she's smiling at the reader, absolutely delighted with the act she's just pulled off.

Howatch's series on the English clergy has been excellent from the start, but this book is
what my wife and I call a "gripper." It is more riveting than the best thriller I've read in a
long time.

Into the Healing Centre comes Alice, who looks like the back end of a bus, but cooks
cordon bleu. Her self-esteem is zilch, a word she uses often to describe what she's gotten
out of life. When she stumbles into a service conducted by the gorgeous, charismatic
Father Nicholas Darrow, she's bowled over. When he gets her a job in the rectory of the
Healing Centre, we're off to the races, because everybody is in love with Nick--especially

Like Howatch's other books, this one is a study of clerical life, its joys and its very
considerable hazards. Nick really is a psychic healer. Unfortunately, he's hard put to keep
himself from using his special grace for his own quite unconscious purposes. When he
slips, his analyses of other people's problems are so far wrong that they would be ludicrous
if the people themselves weren't at horrible risk. The story is about the ways in which the
main characters--Alice, Nick, Nick's wife Rosalind, his partner Father Lewis Hall, his
unfortunate curate Stacy and the chief of the Centre's "befrienders," Francie--cope with
their own problems when they are being helped and/or driven out of their minds by Nick.
It's not pretty, but sometimes it's hilarious.

If you think religion is for sissies, this book might change your mind. I have a feeling that
some slightly stuffy critics might call it melodrama, but then that's what they said about the
works of Dickens and Trollope, too. In fact, this is a very serious novel about very serious
matters, but don't worry, it's also a moving and fascinating story. You might as well block
out a few hours and plan to stay glued to your chair when you tackle this one.
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on October 1, 2001
The literary problem with this novel, which so many readers find so riveting, is its construction. The book is broken into five parts narrated by four different interconnected persons. While it is interesting to view events as through a prism, this technique wears thin in page after page of rambling prose. This novel would have been much stronger if it had been edited down. Much too much verbiage! Much too much wandering over the same territory! At one point I wondered why I kept plodding on. The answer is, you get hooked on these characters due to this surplice-ripping series as a whole. Despite several melodramatic moments, nothing much happens in this novel-- it could have been condensed into a fine short story. For a budding Howatch fan, I recommend "Glittering Images" or particularly the incredible potboiler "The High Flyer" over this book any day.
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on August 1, 2000
I wanted to like this book. I'm an Anglican and an anglophile. It was my first Susan Howatch novel. I knew people who liked it. It was imaginative of the author to write in the voices of four different characters. But! The plot was illogical at times. Most of the characters acted as if they needed emergency psychotherapy a lot more than they needed spiritual direction. The psychological lingo was anachronistic (what professional could diagnose "an acute psychotic episode resulting from a nervous breakdown" with a straight face any more?). The only character who made consistent sense was Sister Clare Veronica, Nicholas's spiritual director. Even in the face of all that, though, the book had its strange appeal. After finishing it, I immediately tacked two of the Starbridge novels to see what they were like.
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on February 22, 1999
I found this book to be somewhat tedious to get through. The characters were superficial, stereotypical and so very self absorbed in their own psychology. Howatch seems to be using the characters to showcase her knowledge of psychological processes. However, her understanding of these complexities seems too text book and theoretical when she attempts to apply it to the experiences and insights of her characters. The result is a very self-conscious storyline that at times seemed greatly overworked with shallow characters that remain self absorbed and narcissic and are never really are enlightened in the end. This is my first Howatch book, I won't purchase another.
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