Center for Fiction First Novel Prize - Longlist
"A Greek chorus of cockroaches amuses and admonishes in this admirable first novel about the human cost of colonialism....Sharp-witted, well-read, and with a long view of history, their voice is dignified, erudite, and often funny. "
"An inventive depiction of colonialism and chaos." Publishers Weekly
"Alice Hatcher’s rollicking and visionary first novel The Wonder That Was Ours, winner of the Dzanc Prize for Fiction, is the story of 'the week everything burned.' ... Although hilarity abounds, Hatcher’s take on colonialism, racial and class divides is timely, and powerfully imagined."
"Who better to tell a revelatory tale of human fallibility than perhaps the most maligned creatures on Earth? Though their story may be tragic, Alice Hatcher’s cockroaches are witty, companionable, and irresistibly charming storytellers. I will be recommending this sumptuous and deeply empathic novel to all my reader friends."
• Michelle Ross, author of There's So Much They Haven't Told You
"Hatcher's choice to narrate The Wonder That Was Ours from the perspective of cockroaches feels audacious at first, then necessary, then strangely warm and touching. Her novel explores issues of alienation, injustice, and consoling friendship in truly original and unexpected ways, with cleverness and great heart. The Wonder That Was Ours reveals prejudices we didn't know we had and helps us expand our notions of love, empathy, and redemption through a story that seems both traditional and utterly new."
Mark Beauregard, author of The Whale: A Love Story
"Hatcher's unique narrators offer a bird's-eye view of history, with all the glory and devastation that entails: an ambitious experiment that ends in an achingly compassionate achievement. This book is funny, warm, and piercingly intelligentand it will probably break your heart."
• Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire and The Daughters
"Don't let the omniscient cockroach narrators scare you. Put down the Roach Out! Listen to the bugs. As the passengers on an off-shore cruise ship fall to a pestilential sickness, the island nation of St. Anne and its people suffer a series of cataclysms. The Wonder That Was Ours is both funny and grim, jaunty and horrifying. The cockroaches lead a master class on the ravages of colonialism. They preach something of survival, too, and occasionally even hope."
-Daniel A. Hoyt, author of This Book Is Not For You
"What an unexpected pleasure this book was! By the end of this book I was in love and in awe: not only had the author pulled off this unusual conceit, but she’d used it to build a truly moving and revealing story. The Wonder That Was Ours is a thoughtful, fresh take on empathy, isolation, fear, and the legacies of colonialism. Professor Cleave, Dave, Helen, Tremor, and, yes, the cockroaches will remain in your hearts and your minds for a long time after finishing this book."
-Chrissy Kolaya, author of Charmed Particles
"Through chiseled prose, potent imagery, and a cast of narrators who operate as a hat tip to Kafka, Alice Hatcher's comitragic cautionary tale about race and class is impossible to forget. Part farce and part lament, The Wonder That Was Ours reminds us how 'so much depends upon perspective.'"
-Lindsey Drager, author of The Lost Daughter Collective
"Really, though, what did Franz Kafka know about cockroaches?" Not much compared to Hatcher, who makes a group of roaches the narrator of her debut novel.It isn't necessary to know the history of banana republics or labor movements to follow this bright novel, but it helps. For those who require a refresher course, the cockroaches (speaking in the royal "we") offer a droll yet painstaking political and social history of a fictitious Caribbean island that runs parallel to political movements throughout history. Thankfully, a cavalcade of characters brings this history to life—most notably the cabbie/bartender Wynston Cleave, known as Professor Cleave by family, friends, and the cockroaches that permeate his taxi. Years earlier, Cleave had the misfortune of picking up a tipsy American heiress who then died in his car. Wrongly imprisoned for her death but now free, he is suspicious when he picks up a bedraggled couple, recently kicked off an American cruise ship. Suspicion soon turns to anxiety when a viral contagion overtakes the ship. A bloated body washed ashore ignites rumors, thoughtless acts, riots, and finally martial law. Hatcher's training as a historian is evident in this well-woven novel, even if many of the secondary characters are indistinguishable from one another. However, it's the cockroaches that are the true stars of the show. Sharp-witted, well-read, and with a long view of history, their voice is dignified, erudite, and often funny: "Woe to us, who suffer the curse of stubby little wings, vestigial appendages suitable for neither flying nor fanning ourselves on a hot day (One can hopefully appreciate our love of air conditioning in light of this one regrettable aspect of our anatomy"). It is wise to heed the narrator's observations, on Hatcher's fictional world as well as political history and human shortcomings.A Greek chorus of cockroaches amuses and admonishes in this admirable first novel about the human cost of colonialism.