The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green

Image of The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green
Release Date: 
April 2, 2019
Sourcebooks Landmark
Reviewed by: 

Feel-good stories abound, but this one offers a fresh and creative context: crop circles.

According to main character Daniel Green, crop circles are not the work of aliens but rather a dedicated secret society of humans. Daniel belongs to this group, whose purpose is to restore some wonder in the world. The specific purpose of Daniel’s 15th “wonder” is to draw people back to a dying Vermont town and resurrect interest in farming, along with hope.

While at it, Daniel and the other characters need to solve their personal problems. Everyone has a secret sorrow or shame; a deteriorating relationship with a loved one; a dreary background to recover from; things they need to say and can’t; deep contradictory feelings that cause torment . . .

. . . all arising from a smorgasbord of modern malaises: terminal cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder, infidelity, addiction, divorce, depression, homosexuality, and the demise of the family farm.

As Molly, wife of the farmer who commissions Daniel for a crop circle, says, “Everything happens all at once, in one big snarled mess, and sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s not.”

The story is devoted to finding beauty and love amid misery. Although aimed at the young-adult/new-adult audience, it’s appealing also to adults of all ages.

The narrative is conveyed through three alternating viewpoints: Daniel, a young idealist who wants to live with his hands on the earth and works “undercover” as an itinerant farmhand while he creates circles; Molly, middle-aged thwarted wife of Sam, who himself is struggling to hang on to his farm while he rots away from cancer; and Nessa, their daughter, the one who should inherit the farm instead of the rebellious son Molly and Sam want to continue their legacy.

One of the hardest lessons each learns is what they believed they were born to do isn’t always possible, despite best intentions and hard labor. But a good friend counsels, “a person can be born to do more than one thing, you know.”

That shot of enlightenment galvanizes changes in the internal, and thus external, direction of the principal characters. They all come to their pivotal moment in different stages, at different times, but eventually everyone overcomes their issues and they unite to make the circle happen, save the farm, and save each other.

Meanwhile, readers get to learn how crop circles are made. Surely more than one of us has wondered about that. No reason why we can’t all look it up online these days, but it’s a lot more fun to learn about it through somebody’s intense personal story