Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

29 Jun

Genre: Literary fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins (Harper)

Pub date: 7 June 2011

Source: Publisher

Synopsis

Marina Singh is a forty-something researcher living a rather complacent life in a safe job and a comfortable relationship with her much older boss. She is jolted out of this complacence when her colleague Anders Eckman dies in the Amazon where he was chasing the secretive, larger-than-life Dr Annick Swenson to find out about her research.

Marina is persuaded by Eckman’s wife and her boss Mr. Fox to go to Brazil and track down Swenson. Swenson was Marina’s teacher and mentor many years ago when she was a resident gyneacologist. On this unexpected journey, she experiences such magical things and learns so much – about the Lakashi people, the research, her mentor and herself.

Review

State of Wonder is a tale of adventure into the heart of darkness – Marina Singh ventures into the Amazon where the extremely secretive Annick Swenson has been working for over 10 years. She has been closely guarding the results of her research into a fertility drug that keeps the Lakashi women fertile into their 70s, not even letting her employer know where she is.

Patchett’s storytelling of this almost mythological tale is clean, minimalistic but oh so beautiful! Her descriptions pull you in and take you along the river into the jungle. Initially Marina does not seem like the person who can stand up to her old mentor and get the information she wants. But over time we see that she seems to have a strange staying power, patience and intelligence.

Marina is helped in her initial difficult days in the jungle by Easter, a young deaf native boy. Soon though, Marina and Easter find comfort in each other’s company and forge a strong bond.

This is a page turner that really takes its time to build the characters, and the situation, layer by layer. As a reader I was completely committed to going along with Marina. Marina has to tough it out in a strange new environment filled with strange insects, snakes, diseases and other dangers. While on this voyage is also battling her old demons – her absent father, her reasons for giving up gynaecology and turning to research, her sadness about Eckman. In no small part, the way Marina’s trip to the jungle will turn out depends on whether she can get past her old feelings about her mentor and stand up to her.

The story and the people seem so exotic and magical, yet so realistic that you ask yourself: Is this true? Could it be? The tribe, their long years of fertility, the trees, the ecosystem, the people?

It also makes the reader think about the ethics of pharmaceutical research on indigenous people, their inevitable exploitation and the importance of economics in health-related research.

I can’t say enough great things about State of Wonder and clearly I’m not the only one since there have been rave reviews on blogs and from critics. I do wonder how I’ve missed reading other works by this author – something I plan to remedy right away.

Verdict

Highly, highly recommended. Long after I closed the book, my thoughts were with Marina, Easter and Swenson and the Lakashi people. Don’t miss this magical story.

Rating: 5*

*See my Rating policy

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4 Responses to “Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett”

  1. bookspersonally June 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    This sounds wonderful – definitely going on my to-read list.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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