Nov 1, 2014

State of Wonder

by Ann Patchett

This was a strange and intriguing story, which took quite a few turns I didn't expect. It's about a research doctor who is suddenly sent by her company deep into the Amazon jungle to locate some missing colleagues. Dr. Marina Singh usually does lab research, but communication has lapsed for a long time with one of their prestigious research doctors  who is in the jungle working to develop a fertility drug. They had already sent another employee down there to find the uncommunicable Dr. Swenson, but he is reportedly dead of a fever. Marina Singh was his best friend. Promising his grieving wife to find out what happened, and to get a status update for her company on Dr. Swenson's work, she finds herself en route to the Amazon herself. After endless waiting to make contact she finally arrives at the research station in the remote jungle where the team almost immediately engages her in the work. And things are not exactly what they seem here. Everything is strange and difficult at first- torrential rain, threatening insects, improvising with limited supplies, bizarre native customs, huge snakes, there's even a neighboring cannibal tribe. The story is about anthropology and the intricacies of an unexplored ecosystem, about the ruthlessness of a big drug company, about unexpected discoveries that have far-reaching implications, and about searching out answers to long-held questions. I found the ending particularly captivating, especially regarding what happened to Easter, a deaf-mute boy from another tribe who had been unofficially adopted by Dr. Swenson. It's a book I keep thinking about, days after finishing.

Rating: 3/5      353 pages, 2011

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  1. The ending of this one bothered me - it seemed way out of character.

  2. This was my first experience with a Patchett novel and, like you, I thought about it for days after I finished with it...lots of rather strange twists and I kept having to re-think my opinion of the main characters.

  3. I enjoy Patchett's essays -- as a rule -- more than her fiction. But I quite liked State of Wonder. It remains the only Patchett novel I've been able to finish, and although I had some issues with it, overall I thought it was a really interesting read.

    (But then I read The People in the Trees, which does a lot of the same stuff State of Wonder wants to do, but better, and it drove State of Wonder completely out of my mind.)

  4. Bermudaonion- I didn't really feel that way, but perhaps because I didn't entirely get into the characters- in spite of all the background and reasons given for why they did things, they still felt rather flat for me, so nothing stood out as untoward behavior.

    Sam- It was mine, too. I tried Bel Canto twice and just didn't get into it at all.

    Jenny- I've never read any of her essays. I wonder if I'd enjoy them more. I've been wanting to read People in the Trees- even more so now (due to your comment)!

  5. Oh, Easter. I still think of him. I felt so bad for him. How abandoned he must have felt--and how awful I felt for his family having him taken from them like that initially. It was just a sad situation all around.


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