Sunday, July 24, 2011

State of Wonder; Ann Patchett



Title: State of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Harper
Edition: ARC
Source: publisher
Date Completed: 7/22/2011 
Setting: Minnesota and South America
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes
"The news of Anders Eckman's death came by way of Aerogam, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope. Who even knew they still made these things? This single sheet had traveled from Brazil to Minnesota to mark the passing of a man, a breath of tissue so insubstantial that only the stamp seemed to anchor it to this world...................."
So begins the State of Wonder, as the CEO of Vogel Pharmaceuticals, Jim Fox, delivers the bad news to Marina Singh, a research scientist for the company who had worked as a research partner with the late Eckman.

Anders Eckman was sent to Amazon some two years earlier to report back on the progress of a research and development project involving the possibility of continued fertility for women late in life, as was believed to be the case with the Lakashi tribeswomen living there.  The project has been headed by Dr. Annick Swenson for a over 10 years.  However, Dr. Swenson has failed to keep the company informed about how the project is going, and the CEO is feeling pressured to speed up the process so that the miracle drug can be submitted to the FDA.  Now with Eckman dead,  both Mr. Fox and Eckman's wife want answers. "Why was Eckman buried there, and did he really die of a fever?"

Marina, 42 and single had once studied with Dr. Annick Swenson, who is now in her 70's and has been in the Amazon for over a decade. Years earlier Marina left her training as an OB/GYN doctor for a position as a research scientist, after a surgery she was performing under Dr. Swenson went terribly wrong. She vowed never to treat patients again.  Jim Fox, as Marina calls him, thinks she is the person who must take over now that Eckman is dead. Marina, has been having a discreet relationship with Mr. Fox (as she calls him) for a number of years.  Marina agrees to leave her comfortable and solitary life doing research to travel to the primitive jungles of the Amazon, where death and illness are ever present.

Not only is Marina ill prepared for this trip, but her anti-malarial medicine, Larium, has been causing her nightmares about the very things that have haunted her since childhood.  In addition, her luggage is lost, and, once she arrives she is told by Dr. Swenson that she should not have come.  It isn't long before she is thrust into the jungles, and she learns what Swenson's research has involved.  In the process, Marina is forced to deal with many of the issues she has long avoided.

I've long been a fan of Ann Patchett, having read,  all of her books except Bel Canto, which I hope to rectify soon. As with her other books, this book is another winner.  I thought the strength of this book was the locale, contrasting the cold Minnesota winters to the hot and humid climate of the rain forest.  The writing was rich and descriptive, and beautifully detailed. At times I felt like I should be swatting some mosquitoes as I read this book.  I loved the element of suspense that strung me along for a page-turning experience, and which included a twist I had not anticipated.  The book dealt with some ethical issues, but I liked the fact that the author did not take sides or debate the issues, even though Dr. Swenson at one point stressed the merits of the project.

One complaint I had was the way that Mr. Fox seemed to so easily send Marina, a woman he obviously cared for, out into the dark unknown. A quiet, reserved woman, she seemed like such an unlikely candidate to investigate the death of her coworker, and to delve into what was going on with the project.  Initially, I thought he was spineless, but in the end, I realized Marina was the perfect choice for the assignment, as the entire ordeal forced her to deal with her past and with the issues that has troubled her for so long. An excellent story - read it.

32 comments:

  1. You liked this one more than I did. I think Mr. Fox was more interested in the bottom line than in Marina. They always hid their relationship.

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  2. It sounds like a good one :-) She's a great author, so I was bound to get around to this sooner or later, but now it's on my definitive reading list. Thank you :-)

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  3. I didn't realize how many interesting themes and issues are involved in this book. It sounds fantastic. Anything I've read by Ann Patchett has been terrific, she just knows how to write so I should have realized this is a book worth reading.
    Thank you for a great review!

    Bel Canto is wonderful!

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  4. I also enjoyed this book, but I found MR Fox rather cool. I don't know that he cared so much for Marina.

    To have Marina get nightmares from Lariam was interesting, I thought. I guess it's a genuine side effect of the drug.

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  5. WOW, I got caught up in it just reading about it!!!

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  6. This was my first Ann Patchett, so I'm glad to hear the rest are just as good. I'm surprised by how much this book has stuck with me. I, too, really enjoyed it.

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  7. I am glad that you had a favorable view of this book. I have an ARC copy TBR and I am looking forward to reading it. I've read two books by Ann Patchett; Run and Autobiography of a Face which I liked. I could not get through Bel Canto, I tried several times.

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  8. I loved Bel Canto and thought it was a great read. I have been reading so many reviews of this book that I can't escape the need to own it anymore. I will be adding this one to my collection this evening. Great and thorough review. I enjoyed it immensely!

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  9. I loved Bel Canto. This book sounds intriguing. Weird coincidence, I had a cousin who went to brazil. He died suddenly and they buried him there before his family could see him.

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  10. I loved Bel Canto but didn't like this one nearly as much as you! And I didn't think much of Mr. Fox either! But I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  11. I have heard nothing but good things about State of Wonder. I loved Bel Canto, so I am glad to hear that the author's latest is great too. Thanks for the wonderful review!

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  12. I wasn't overly fond of Mr. Fox, but I loved this book. It left me wanting more for Maria than the ending suggested.

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  13. This book sounds lush! I need to read my copy soon. I've only read one other's of Patchett's and really enjoyed it so I think I really enjoy her writing style as well.

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  14. State of Wonder is all over the blogs! it sounds a good one.

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  15. I have been reading mixed reviews about this one. I am kind of scared to try out Ann Patchett. I will try and get this time.

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  16. I'm a long-time Ann Patchett fan, too. Looking forward to reading her latest!

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  17. This one is on my wishlist, and it seems that so many people are loving it a lot.

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  18. This one is already on my lengthy wish list.

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  19. I've been going back and forth on whether or not to buy this book. You've given me one more reason in the "pro" column.

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  20. I adored this one, and I'm so glad to see you liked it so much too. It was my first Patchett, but Bel Canto is next on my list. I'm eager to work my way through all of her novels soon!

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  21. I've heard a lot of good things about this book, so I've added it to my to-read list, but a recent comparison to Conrad's Heart of Darkness (which I couldn't finish) has made me a bit hesitant. I did like Patchett's Run, so it's worth a try at some point, I suppose. Glad you really liked it.

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  22. I really enjoyed this one too! I had issues with the ending, other than that this was a winner!

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  23. I LOVED State of Wonder AND Bel Canto, which I listened to at the same time! You can find my combined review here: http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/bell-canto-and-state-of-wonder/ And I sure want to read more by Patchett now. Which one would you recommend? Thanks Emma @ Words And Peace

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  24. Because you said so I will read it. I have not read anything by Patchett...shameful really.

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  25. I'm so looking forward to reading this one!

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  26. funny, her only book that I did read was Bel Canto, which I liked a lot.

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  27. I've been hearing some good things about this ... and I'm not really a Patchett fan. actually, my favorite one of hers IS Bel Canto so I'm curious to see how you'll like it.

    By the way, I'm just back from vacation and getting caught up with blogs. I'm only leaving one comment for everyone but reading all your posts. I figure less commenting will help me catch up faster. Thanks for understanding.

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  28. I really enjoyed the novel, but I still think Marina was a bit of a blank slate character.

    My thoughts are here: http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/07/state-of-wonder.html

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  29. I've been wanting to read this. I've read Bel Canto and Run. Bel Canto is amazing and amazingly sad. Run is pretty good.

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  30. Coming from you, "an excellent story - read it" is a suggestion I'm likely to follow. I'll admit that I've hesitated to pick this up, only because I hold BEL CANTO so high, and Patchett's other books haven't struck me the same.

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  31. I won this one a few weeks ago and am looking forward to it.

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  32. I'm a latecomer in reading this book but I couldn't put it down once I started it. The imaginative plot and setting and characters drew me in. I thought the book was all about the greed of the drug companies and the misplaced priorities in where they put their research money. It was also a great adventure story!

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