Thursday, October 24, 2013
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett has dazzled readers with her award winning books, including The Magician's Assistant and the New York Times bestselling Bel Canto. Now she raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.
Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to find her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have disappeared in the Amazon while working on an extremely valuable new drug. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding answers.
Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as ever. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations.
In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side. (back cover)