Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder takes you on a journey through the Amazon river basin, deep into the jungle to explore the mysteries of science and self.  The main character, Dr. Marina Singh is a scientist who lives in Minnesota and works for a pharmaceutical company.  Her work partner, Anders, went to Brazil to check on the progress of a new fertility drug being tested and produced, deep in the Amazon jungle.  He ends up dying there and Marina is notified of it in the form of a blue airmail letter.  She and her boss, Mr Fox, deliver the devastating news to Anders wife and sons with great difficulty.

Karen and Mr. Fox encourage Marina to make the journey to Brazil for their own purposes.  Marina embarks on this life changing personal journey into the unknown to meet up with her former mentor, the formidable Dr. Swenson.  She must face her fears to travel to a place that is the polar opposite of Minnesota.  She enters a zone of heat, humidity, bugs, snakes and meets a variety of unique cultures that have their own unique customs.  Marina has no instruction manual on the Amazon and its people and enters a world unto itself.

Ann Patchett is a really great writer.  She brings the reader to a place and holds their attention.  State of Wonder is a modern re-invention of Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  It is a story of polar opposites where you have frigid cold, and humid heat.  You have man crushing snakes and cannibals, combined with beautiful birds and life giving trees.  There is birth and death, dark and light, love and hate, all of which leave the reader in a State of Wonder.

This is the third book I have read by Patchett.  The first was Bel Canto, the second Truth and Beauty, both of which I highly recommend.  I really wanted to love State of Wonder but sadly, I didn't.  It is definitely a worthwhile read, with potential for great thoughts and discussion.  Some parts of the book seemed contrived to me, like how her phone disappeared twice conveniently.  Other parts of the book were amazing and I had tears in my eyes at the end.  Patchett has great multi-dimensional characters that you won't easily forgot.  My advice:  Don't listen to me, make up your own mind.
Enter the State of Wonder at your own risk, it may just be the adventure of a lifetime or a trip to hell.   It's all about perspective.

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