Thursday, October 24, 2013

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I love discovering 'new' authors! Although I've seen Ann Patchett around on bookshelves for a while, I'd never gotten around to actually picking her up until now. I have the print book of State of Wonder but I ended up mostly listening to this on the audio version from the library; the narrator's voice is perfect for the part. I have to say, too, that I appreciate the controversy of the subject matter (isn't there always controversy surrounding the pharmaceutical industry?) and how the author portrays the complexity of adult personal and professional relationships. I'm amazed at how often the books I read purporting to be Women's Fiction only turn out to be more a coming-of-age stories for what I would consider a Young Adult audience. That's okay up to a point; I enjoy the occasional YA story myself. I would just like a little more clarity and distinction between these two genres. The synopses on the back covers aren't always that revealing. So, yes, this book is what I would consider Women's Fiction as the protagonist, Marina, is in her forties dealing with many of the same emotions and life stations we forty-somethings encounter. I enjoyed the book more than I expected, except for perhaps one or two developments at the end that felt forced and slightly unbelievable. But then, I guess, I've never been in a situation like these characters find themselves in so I'm willing to go with it. Walk a mile in their shoes, and all that. If I had to rate it I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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)


Anonymous said...

i enjoyed it very much as well. and I listened to Bel Canto: very good, I encourage you to listen to it

JoAnn said...

I've read all of Patchett's books and think this is among her best... of course being loosely connected to the pharmaceutical industry added to the appeal.

Trish said...

W&P - I've heard good things about that one too. I will give it a try.

JoAnn - It certainly got my attention. It covers some interesting ground.

Marlene Detierro said...

his is a terrific read, and while it's very intelligently narrated in flowing prose, and is quite thought-provoking, it's not overly wrought. It is an ideal read for that 5-hour flight or the leisurely vacation that requires an engrossing read. It's tough to put this one down. I can't wait to read more of her novels.

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