Read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett Online


As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedyAs Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness....

Title : State of Wonder
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780062049803
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 353 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

State of Wonder Reviews

  • Tara
    2019-04-02 14:39

    This book never felt right. The characters were weak and hard to identify with, the plot seemed like something of a time past (yet wasn't), and the outcome of it all was ridiculous. The book would head in one direction for a while, then veer wildly in another. My pet peeve is when authors play fast and loose with characters and established world facts in order to advance plots. Lazy!Let's go for a ride: -American researcher dead in the jungle and his colleague goes to Brazil to find out more - REALLY?-a creepy Australian couple guards the gates? what /was/ this? it was so random and weird and fleeting-Lakashi have lots of babies, are mostly immune to malaria, but are not a gigantic population. My math doesn't compute on this one-Dr. Swenson abducts children, moralizes constantly, keeps 18 million secrets and is pregnant at 73 (and - an extension of this - experiments on herself in the jungle. cool!). She's like the matriarch on the soap operas who are always dropping the bad news. "Good job on that c-section. NOW DO MINE." (Insert dramatic music and commercial break)-other random doctors think everything is awesome AND WHY SHOULDN'T THEY?-Fantastic Mr. Fox and one of the creepy Australians come to the jungle too! Oh wow, a party!-Anders is alive! And we can trade the abducted child for him. Great!Other oddness:-What was up with all the older man/younger woman couples? -Marina - is anyone this annoyingly naive? -Lakashi - anonymous natives = awesome. I felt more character development was done on the boats than this entire (apparently stable) population-The rainforest ecosystem is considered complex for a reason. This means the solution to two very large problems would probably not be IN THE SAME PLACE

  • Carol.
    2019-04-12 16:34

    Alas, I did not reach a state of wonder reading this. I would say I was in State(s) of: Interest, Appreciation, Mild Irritation, Interest Modified by Moments of Irritation, Shock, and then Milder Shock that dwindled into a State of General Annoyance, which would possibly make it the longest book title in history.A super-summary: Although she trained as an OB/GYN doctor, Marina is working in service of evil a pharmaceutical drug researcher who has studied cholesterol for the past seven years with her co-researcher, Anders Eckman. (For those of you not familiar with the pharmaceutical industry, let me give you the subtext: this product is about making money. Marina has gone from supporting the growth of life and healing to outright capitalism). Anders had been sent to remote Brazil to check in on a study the company is funding, searching for the source of a remote indigenous group's surprising fertility. Coincidentally, the head researcher is Marina's former supervising doctor before she dropped out of the OB/GYN program. One day, the head researcher, Dr. Swenson, sends an note saying Eckman has died, and Mr. Fox, who Marina calls 'Mr. Fox' despite having an affair with him, sends Marina to Brazil to investigate.Marina's a product of both Indian and Minnesotian Norweigian heritage, and part of State of Wonder seems to be about her reconciling her life. I say "part," because while she is suffering from anti-malaria drug dreams, she usually dreams about her Indian father and not the white mother who raised her. The history never quite makes the jump from dreamland to reality, however, and only emphasizes the extent to which she is disconnected from her own life. The thought of meeting Dr. Swenson again also brings up lingering conflict about her medical residency in obstetrics, and her decision to leave the program.Apparently, the overall story themes bear some parallels with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which I have not read. Perhaps then this book would have resonated more. But do we really need a feminine re-interpretation and modernization of "man-goes-to-heart-of-Africa" novel? It's rather an obnoxious premise: journeying to the wilderness to find the source of female fecundity. Um. Is it possible to be less literal about the journey to discover self/the heart of female mystery? I was half expecting the imperialist overtones, so to have a narrator who hails from multiple ethnic backgrounds was an interesting twist. It felt a little like a crutch, however, to have her hail from Minnesota and raised by her white mother; as if then Patchett could draw on her own voice and not develop the voice of someone who moves between multiple cultures. It reminded me quite a bit of Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible in that people who identify with American-dominant culture are transplanted to the most remote place possible and set up to interact with "primitive" cultures. (Understand, I'm in no way calling the other cultures 'primitive,' just that the culture clash is set up as two extremes from an imperialist perspective).I do enjoy Patchett's prose, which is what ultimately saved this book. The first paragraph begins with an Aerogram, and anyone who has used it can identify with the description of "a breath of tissue so insubstantial that only the stamp seemed to anchor it to this world." I was particularly moved when Marina wanted to dog to stay as they broke the news of Anders' death to his wife: "'I like dogs,' Marina said, thinking it was vital that he stay. The dog would have to stand in for their minister if they had one. The dog would be Karen's mother, her sister, whoever it was she wished was standing next to her when everything came down. The dog would have to be Anders."Unfortunately, her prose could not quite bring Marina to full, vivid life. She drifted along a path set by other people, and persisted in lacking any agency in charting her own fate. She is disconnected from herself and her world, making it hard for the reader to care about her. Furthermore, as someone who is deeply immersed in medical culture, I didn't feel she represented or conveyed the voice of someone who invests in medical school to become an OB/GYN. She lacks passion for people, a commitment to her community and a drive to succeed. As a character, we have very little information on how she spends time besides her work in the lab. Dr. Swenson, on the other hand, is a dynamic force of a person, directing, orchestrating, manipulating. She is a far more interesting person, even though she is not particularly likeable.What ultimately decreased my rating was the ending. Marina spends pages and pages getting to Brazil, pages and pages waiting in the city, Manaus, and then some time acclimating to the jungle, but in the last 25 pages, Marina makes a major discovery and two extremely significant events occur that will reverberate throughout many lives. After the slow build, it was shocking; though it technically resolves plot points, it was an emotional cliffhanger of an ending that seemed remarkably incongruous with the character development we had.I've enjoyed Patchett's other books, specifically Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant, so I won't take Patchett off my 'authors to watch' list. Two-and-a-half star read.Cross posted at

  • Danielle McClellan
    2019-03-26 12:17

    I thought that Ann Patchett had made her great contribution to literature with "Bel Canto," which seemed to me to be the perfect novel, and stays high on the list of my very favorites. It is the book that I sold by hand as a bookseller and the book that I still pass along to friends. I should keep a stack of them since I have handed mine off so many times that I never know if I have a copy or not. The book is a jewel box of structure, character, and language that left me overwhelmed with admiration. Since reading that book, I have read Patchett's other books and enjoyed them all, particularly "Run," but never again have I had that out-of-body, transcendent reading experience until now. "State of Wonder" is absolutely mind-boggling good. I have just finished it in a straight reading jag that thankfully fell when the kids were out of town with my husband for the weekend (otherwise, I am afraid that it would have been bad-mommy mac and cheese and a cartoon movie in order to carve out the reading time I needed). I don't want to give anything away, except to say that this is "Heart of Darkness" recast in contemporary Brazil, and Patchett's heroine, who goes into the forest on a mission and finds herself tested at every point, is beautifully rendered. I dare any reader to put the book down during the final fifty pages. It is a fantastic, inevitable ending that I never saw coming.

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-04-06 17:20

    Mistah Kurtz, he dead, well, Mr. Eckman anyway. At Minnesota-based Vogel pharmaceuticals, weeks-old news of bio-researcher Anders Eckman’s Amazonian demise leads the company to send another scientist to find out what happened, and to complete Eckman’s charge. He had been sent to determine the status of research, on a long-overdue revolutionary fertility drug, being conducted by the reclusive, and somewhat scary Doctor Annick Swenson. (think Kurtz) Pharmacological researcher Marina Singh (think Marlow) is sent to the remote Brazilian research station to investigate. Along the way she has to overcome several obstacles, including a pair of gatekeepers in a Brazilian city, conflict about leaving her significant other, and a fear of facing her former teacher. In addition there are the physical challenges of travelling up-river into this remote and forbidding place, some incoming poison arrows, a plague of insects, a very large snake, and some persistent nightmares.In a road-trip-journey-of-self-discovery story, it is first imperative that one identify with the searcher. While Marina is a somewhat sympathetic character, it is tough to feel wholly supportive of her, let alone empathetic. She has committed some errors in her life, like the rest of us, but she keeps making such dumb mistakes that she makes one think she might have been better off staying home. (Following is borderline spoiler material, so you might want to close your eyes for a line or two.) For instance, she leaves her satellite phone in stowed luggage rather than with her carry-on materials. Any guesses what happens? Yep. Not only does she lose her sat-phone (when the airline mislays her luggage) on arrival in Brazil, she then proceeds to lose all her new belongings once again when she arrives at her up-river destination. There is a much bigger error in judgment that happens near the end but I will spare you that one. Suffice it to say that it makes one shake one’s head and mutter “Schmuck!” I understand that the sequential loss of property is a mechanism for stripping the character down to her core, but if our identification with the searcher is undermined, what is left? A fair bit actually. What I most enjoyed were the echoes of Joseph Conrad and other classical references to be found here. Conrad’s book had a lot to do with the relationship between the western and third worlds. Marina is herself the embodiment of such diversity, being the product of an Indian (as in South Asian, not Native American) father and a Caucasian American mother. The Congo that Conrad wrote of was a source of natural resources for European colonialists. In this contemporary version, it is the potential for pharmacological resources to be found in Amazonia that the West is looking to exploit. I cannot cite a page number but I am pretty sure there was purple smoke wafting about, which summoned for me an element of Coppola’s cinematic interpretation of Conrad. And Minnesota offers an image of coldness to contrast with the heat of the Brazilian jungle.In the quest for self-discovery, a Campbell-ian hero ventures from his/her quotidian home, in this case Eden Prairie, where Vogel Pharmaceuticals is ironically located, to a place of supernatural power, slays a dragon, literally or figuratively, thus gaining power, and boogies on home, enlarged. Patchett has some fun with this, naming the company’s Brazilian guide Milton, for example. A young native character is Easter, which must have something to do with sacrifice and return, ya think? [Marina] understood that in life a person was only allowed one trip down to hellThat she attends an opera of Orpheus and Eurydice reinforces this. What might be thought of as a tree of knowledge shows up as well. Considering the stripping of her externalities that came before, it seems pretty clear that someone is being reborn. He walked her into the water up to their knees and then up to their waists. It was like a bath, silky and warm. The current was so slight it barely disturbed her clothes. She wanted to lie down in it. Milton dipped his own handkerchief into the water and spread it wet over the top of her head. “It’s better, isn’t it,” he said, though it wasn’t a question.A harpy eagle, reminiscent of the harpies of mythology, puts in an appearance, toting a soul to Hades, no doubt. In fact, birds show up a fair bit. The pharmaceutical company in question is called Vogel, German for bird. A large white bird, a jaribu stork, flaps through. In Egyptian mythology, this bird is associated with the soul of the dead communicating with the living. Feathered friends pop up a few more times, but I did not catch any obvious (or easily researchable) references from them. Marina is seen in avian plumage as well: she was unsteady in her shoes, which, along with the ridiculous dress, made her the human equivalent of a bird with a broken wing to any predator who might be out trawling the streets late at night. The color purple, the color, not the story, turns up several times. This is usually associated with either royalty or spirituality. I am going with the latter here. OK, OK. I know I tend to go overboard with such things, and it is always possible, likely even, that the author did not intend all these references. But just in case.Finally hope as a theme comes into play. The core of the jungle research is a fertility drug. What could symbolize hope more than that? The dead researcher’s wife charges Marina with the task of finding out just what happened to her late husband. She harbors faint hope that he might still be alive. Swenson’s dedication to her work, and to keeping the corporate suits at bay, is based on hope for a great scientific breakthrough. Marina gains some hope of redemption. On the other hand: Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody keeps pulling and pulling it.But then:Had they not been so hopeful [Marina’s parents] and guileless her birth would have been impossible.Maybe things in Patchett’s tale are not quite so dark as in Coppola’s bleak vision, or as in Conrad’s. Some light does seep through. State of Wonder can feel slow—maybe like a journey up-river?—but while the story takes a long time to get where it is going, it is an enjoyable read, particularly if you like playing literary treasure hunt, as I do. There is content to be had, questions raised, moral dilemmas to be resolved, and some bio-tech issues to consider. This is a thoughtful and interesting read.

  • Clare Cannon
    2019-04-10 18:38

    A scientific jungle experiment/investigation involving an elderly and rather secretive matriarchal doctor who leads the experiment, a missing/deceased company representative who was sent to investigate what the experiment is up to, and a female company representative (who happens to also be a former medical student of the matriarch) who is sent to investigate what happened to the previous company representative.In spite of lengthy descriptions of the experiment and professorial soliloquising by the matriarch, the science and ethics of the experiment is secondary to the drama of the story, and perhaps because I didn't really care for any of the characters I cared even less about their dramas. The general plot kept the story going in an unobjectionable direction: the experiment was a little bizarre (extending the fertility of women beyond the normal time of menopause) but the direction the matriarch headed with it was fairly balanced, and she combined it with experiments that were more urgently needed for the health of the poor.Yet many of the characters had confused little escapades along the way, the main character is in a non-public physical relationship with her 20-years senior boss, and (view spoiler)[the elderly matriarch is participating in her own experiment and is 7 months pregnant (the father's identity is left unclear), and in a rather strange episode the main character sleeps with a man she has just rescued, told in a way that implies any two friends would do surely the same after all they'd been through. The typical assumption of our age, I guess, but not particularly edifying to read about (hide spoiler)]. The two specific scenes were described, but more 'poetically' than graphically.Personally I don't think it's worth the read, but if melodramatic and rather bizarre scientific experiments set in the middle of the jungle and told in the style of a higher-level tv drama sound enticing, then the quality of the writing may make this slightly higher-level than others of its type.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Arah-Lynda
    2019-03-20 10:36

    This marks the third time that I have dipped into the writing pool of Ann Patchett and let me tell you, she does not disappoint! Dr. Marina Singh embarks on a trip to Brazil in an effort to determine two things: What happened to her colleague, who had died there scant weeks ago and what kind of progress was being made by her former mentor in the development of a new fertility drug that was being funded by her pharmaceutical company. Both of these tasks prove to be most complex and difficult to acheive. Her former mentor's work is at the center of her journey and involves a little known tribe of people whose ability to procreate extends well into their seventies and proves to be as closely linked to their life's rituals as the environment in which they live. Patchett is such a fine writer that you become an unseen guest on this quest into the Amazon rain forest. Encounters with cannibals, poison arrows, humongous anacondas, pyschedelic fungi and the ever incessant, insect infested jungle. OH MY! This one left me in a State of Wonder.

  • Maggie
    2019-04-19 18:18

    This novel was just what I've been looking for this summer: a dazzling story, a meaty pile of ethical questions, characters that endure long after the book is over, and prose that gets more beautiful the more you notice it. I didn't love the novel's end; it was a bit too rushed for me, and the sudden pile-on of action left me wanting more of the slow build-up that carried us to the climax. It occurs to me, though, that wanting more of a book is as good a sign as any that it won me over completely. Apparently I have a thing for matriarchal Heart of Darkness scenarios.

  • Paddy
    2019-04-11 17:30

    After all the rave reviews, my expectations were high. But this is no Bel Canto. The infuriatingly hapless heroine does not look ahead to scout out minor(everyone knows to pack some necessities in carry-on luggage, including cell phone)or major consequences of her actions and is locked in past failures and losses (one grows tired of her lost father nightmares and all her screaming). One could also hope for subtler symbolism and metaphors, less stilted dialogue, more skillful writing. For example, the plot mires down in Manaus with minutiae of daily discomforts and too many days of waiting. In contrast, once Marina arrives in the jungle, we would actually like more minutiae about the basics of living there.Frivolous notes: I heard Patchett on a local radio show (she sounds like someone who is a lot of fun and a good friend)and she described naming two characters for a Nashville couple who bought the opportunity to have Patchett name characters for them at a charity auction. Hence, we get the name Bovender. Patchett described the real-life Bovenders as generous arts patrons and wonderful people. She did not go on to share that another couple in this novel are named for beloved Nashvillians, Nancy and Alan Saturn. Nancy owned one of the country's best craft shops and she and Alan were huge supporters of the arts, including Sinking Creek Film Festival. Patchett is married to a physician, Karl VanDefender, who I'll bet is the son of my daughter's first pediatrician, who had that last name (she was born in Nashville).It says something that my paragraph about personal details is longer than my paragraph about the novel. Bottom line: I'd love to enjoy a dinner party with Patchett and her husband, but I wanted more from this novel.

  • Kerry
    2019-03-30 13:47

    I really wanted to like this book. After all, there are all the raving reviews, and it's the kind of story that usually grabs and holds my interest (jungle adventure + medical drama), but I couldn't finish it. In fact, I gave up after the 4th disc (the audio book has 11 discs). The story plods on like the stifling heat of the jungle, so slow, that it was all padding and no plot for almost half of the book! The author wrote painstaking all the tedious details of Marina's past (she has father issues, okay, we get it!), and pages after pages of the side effects of the anti-malaria drug (nightmares, okay, can we move on now?). There was hardly any story in the first 4 chapters! I didn't wait to find out where things started to take off -- I lost interest by then. Characters can be brought to life with economy of words (see Maugham) instead of self-indulgent drivel. What a waste of my time! I also dislike the audio rendition by Hope Davis. She reads with such a mournful tone I either fell asleep or wanted to kill myself!!

  • Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    2019-04-13 17:45

    I won’t give too much detail; you need to read this spoiler free. It’s deliciously gloomy and atmospheric, a dark adventure with Hitchcock style suspense. You’d expect a fearless heroine in a novel like this; instead you get Dr. Marina Singh, a neurotic woman with a really bad case of low self-esteem quite content with her life as a pharmacologist. That is till her boss & lover Mr. Fox (exactly the kind of ass insecure women go for) bullies her into taking on the quest of finding a missing colleague, a journey that sends her completely out of her comfort zone deep into a Brazilian rain forest. Dr. Singh is fragile & incompetent,(view spoiler)[ the kind of woman that loses all her luggage – twice! (hide spoiler)] sometimes annoyingly whiny, but she’s also interesting and complex, it’s precisely because she’s so flawed that this works. Pachett’s description of the Amazon is nothing short of brilliant. There are a couple of unforgettable scenes, one involving a meeting at the opera, another with an anaconda snake. The plot can be a bit of a stretch, forgiven for it's depth. Tackles the ethical ambiguities surrounding medical research and the impact of scientific exploration on native cultures.Maybe I’m a bit slow but I didn’t see the ending coming, nor did I find it abrupt. My 1st Ann Patchett , I’m really looking forward to reading more by her,Bel Canto next. Cons:If you’re a “give a book 50 pages to grab me” reader give this a pass. Too slow a build, doesn’t hit its stride until about 1/3 of the way in. Once Marina boards that boat and heads down the Amazon though you’ll be hooked. Also, enough with the rehashing of Marina's nightmare about losing her father. She’s got abandonment issues and a father complex, I got it, really no need to hit me over the head with a 2 by 4. Prepare to do some skimming:4 ½ stars rounded down to 4 “Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”

  • Bucket
    2019-04-19 12:23

    First, if you haven't read the book and intend to, don't read this review. I spoil just about everything, including the ending, below. This just didn't work for me. So much bothers me about the way State of Wonder is written and the way the story plays out that I'm overwhelmed by where to begin. I guess the first thing that bothered me was Dr. Swenson - she's a caricature. Her actions and words are absurd and the way the other characters respond to her is worse. It's not just that I didn't like her - she also made no sense. How would someone like her have ever gained such power over those around her? Why in the world does Mr. Fox wait years and not cut off funding? Even if he wants the drug, she could be laying on the beach down there and he has no idea. It's nonsense. While Marina was a decently well-rounded character, there was a weird issue towards the beginning of the novel where her big secret is being divulged to the reader. Marina isn't stating it aloud - the reader is basically inside her head - yet there are continual interruptions where she has a conversation or notes something she sees or hears. Of course, this is meant to drag out the suspense, but stylistically it's bizarre. Are we meant to believe that Marina is literally thinking out the words we're reading and keeps getting interrupted? She's not writing or speaking. She's not even narrating, really - who writes that way?? As the book moves forward the sheer volume of convenient plot twists and coincidences made me want to scream. Everything feels forced into moving the plot along. For example: no one would ever put their phone in their suitcase instead of their carry-on and why didn't the other tribe kill Anders if that's basically what they do? While I was happy to accept the fiction of the story (that there are trees that will let you be fertile into your 70s and beyond) I couldn't accept the coincidences and the tendency of characters to behave completely out of character to further the plot. The worst part was absolutely the end. Anders and Marina have sex? For real? Our author justifies this by saying that they needed to be intimate after what had happened, and they would have been intimate with their respective partners had those people been available, but they weren't so they just had each other. Really? That is insane. Honestly, the idea that someone has to have sex with someone, doesn't matter who, because a rough experience has ended is offensive. The worst is over - I must have sex! Ridiculous.There is one thing that is quite good about this book - the writing about the jungle. The description is excellent and made me feel like I was there among the endless green of the trees and the roots and the vines and the creepy crawlies. This, coupled with the decent characterization of Marina, is why I'll give Ann Patchett another try.Themes: science, research ethics, culture, medicine, fertility, women, relationships, biological clock, Amazon, communication, biology, suspense

  • Uomo di Speranza
    2019-03-28 16:46

    WARNING: SPOILERS PRESENT!When everyone was in about second grade, their teacher taught them about how each butterfly was once an entirely alternative being called a caterpillar. She also must have thrown in the term "cocoon" while you were thinking about how mean the cockney in front of you was for stealing your colorful eraser. Nevertheless, most everyone conceived the concept that there were two inseparable stages to a butterfly's life, two states completely indistinguishable from one another. Being the conceited little priss that I was, my brain never thought this knowledge would be applicable to life in the future. And I was only to be proved wrong years later by a book my very eyes devoured.State of Wonder by Anne Patchett describes the experiences of pharmacologist Marina Singh when getting to and living in the Amazon rain forest. After a colleague of Marina's named Anders Eckman dies there, Marina is sent by her boss and lover, Jim Fox, to both discover the exact cause of Eckman's death and oversee the progress of brilliant Dr. Annick Swenson, who is studying the indigenous Lakashi people so that a drug permitting lifelong fertility in females can be forged. Singh's determination to discover how her colleague perished is intensified by a heart-wrenching plea from Karen Eckman, Anders' widow who is left with three mourning boys while she is still miserable herself, for information about the death. One found phenomenon unexpectedly turns out to be an alternative Dr. Marina Singh-the scant resources and dire situations that the Amazon present cause our main character to perform previously unthinkable actions. When an anaconda threatens to strangle her ever-lovable companion, a deaf boy named Easter, Marina suddenly finds enough courage to murder the great snake with a machete. Marina was once Dr. Swenson's gynecology student, but switched her major to pharmacology after performing a hasty cesarean (something I am so glad we didn't have to complete a lab about in biology) that blinded the baby she was delivering. When a Lakashi woman is in desperate need of a cesarean because her infant is (for lack of a better word) stuck, Marina finds herself forced by an incapable Dr. Swenson to actually conduct the necessitated procedure on a wooden floor with unsterilized equipment and shoehorns to hold open the uterus. When Dr. Fox actually comes into the Amazon to check on her, Marina doesn't tell him the imperative secret every doctor there is incubating: that Fox's investment is being used for, along with that fertility drug, the development of a malaria vaccine from which he will not fiscally benefit. Then it is discovered that Anders is really alive, which leads to Marina having sex with her former colleague on small cot.The Marina Singh who boarded that plane bound for the Amazon would never have executed any of the aforementioned actions. She loved Dr. Fox and therefore would never have desired to hurt his well-being. Karen Eckman was a morbid woman who reached out to Dr. Singh in a time of need, not a person whose spouse she would desire as a sexual partner. The bleak lab at Vogel Pharmaceutical company was her home, a place where discomforts meant tedious faculty meetings, not watching an anaconda strangle the life out of her friend. She had palpably turned into a butterfly somewhere along the way... All humans experience dramatic change-in-state's throughout their lives. It is imperative that after these changes transpire, we do not completely revert back to our previous state. What comes to the forefront of my mind when I think of this concept is the drastic change from childhood to adulthood-would I witness Barney singing on my television every twenty-four hours nowadays? Would I hold on to my parent's hand every time I cross the street now that I am a teenager? The reason behind this prohibition is that our previous states cannot support us as we attempt to fulfill our current potential for success. As arrogant a priss I was, there is no way I would be writing this post at the present time if I was yet to learn long division.Dr. Singh eventually returns to her Minnesota hometown with Anders and fondly watches her colleague's reunion with his family. It is then that Ms. Patchett composes an immensely vague sentence to culminate her narrative: "And Marina brought him back, and without a thought that anyone should see her, she told the driver to go on.(page 353)" I interpret this to mean that Marina brings the spirit of Anders and therefore the Amazon (the two are intertwined since she knows how that Amazonian endeavor started and ended because of him) back to her and uses them in forging her decision to once more be at the side of Dr. Swenson, who both predicted Marina's return and desired that Singh stay to work on the project with her. It is in the Amazon, not in Minnesota, that the new Marina can fulfill her potential to help develop the fertility drug and malaria vaccine. I cannot study records of a 1920s newspaper for my novel tomorrow if I spend all of the day at a day-care. Uomo di Speranza has switched from being raised by others to raising himself. So, my dear friends, insure that you do not crawl on the ground once you have turned from caterpillar to butterfly. You cannot be squashed by an unsuspecting foot if you are flying.

  • Madeline
    2019-04-03 16:37

    Full disclosure: I fucking hated Heart of Darkness, so when I read that this was sort of a female version of the story, I was wary. But State of Wonder is, fortunately, nothing like Heart of Darkness. For one thing, it's coherent (bazinga!) and although there are thematic similarities, the story stands on its own merits. Conrad can suck it. The story follows Marina Singh, a researcher at Vogel Pharmaceutical. For years, Vogel has been funding a research project in the Amazon, led by Singh's former med school teacher, the formidable Dr. Swenson. Swenson is researching an isolated tribe, the Lakashi, who have freakishly high fertility rates, in order to create a new fertility drug. The only problem is that Swenson is extremely secretive, to the point where she barely communicates with Vogel and won't reveal the location of her research station in the jungle. When a research who worked with Singh dies while visiting Swenson, Singh is dispatched to the Amazon to find Swenson and the research station, and find out what happened to the man who died. It takes a good chunk of the book just to find the damn researchers, but once Singh does this it only gets more exciting. In fact, every time the story was in danger of dragging, a new twist or piece of information was revealed, and I was hooked again. All the characters are good (although Marina Singh was, admittedly, my least favorite. shut up about your malaria nightmares already), especially Dr. Swenson. If she doesn't remind you of at least one teacher from your past who intimidated the everloving crap out of you, then I envy your innocence. Patchett's descriptions of the Amazon are glorious and evocative, and since I've never been to the Amazon her portrayal could be total bullshit for all I know, but it's exceptionally convincing either way: "At dusk the insects came down in a storm, the hard-shelled and soft-sided, the biting and the stinging, the chirping and the buzzing and droning, every last one unfolded its paper wings and flew with unimaginable velocity into the eyes and mouths and noses of the only three humans they could find. ...When it was fully dark only the misguided insects pelted themselves into the people on board while the rest chose to end their lives against the two bright, hot lights on either side of the boat. The night was filled with the relentless ping of their bodies hitting the glass."Also there's a scene where two characters catch and kill a fifteen-foot-anaconda, and I can't quote the whole passage because it's like two whole pages, but rest assured that it is awesome and will haunt my snake-fearing dreams for months. There are issues with the story, of course. Your belief must be firmly and securely suspended to enjoy this book as much as it should be enjoyed. It's true: if a researcher refused to give any contact information or progress updates to the large pharmaceutical company sponsoring her research, her funding would be cut off like that; if a researcher died on said secret location, said pharmaceutical company would launch a full investigation rather than sending one lone researcher to find the lab location and get the details (y'know, because it worked so well the first time); if an isolated tribe had women who could give birth into their seventies the tribe would grow into the millions pretty damn fast and they wouldn't be isolated for long; also, mushrooms are not magic. But this issues were surprisingly easy to ignore - to the point where I wasn't even aware of them until I read other reviews pointing them out. In fact, considering my experience with Ann Patchett's novels (the other one I've read, Bel Canto has similar leaps in plausibility and realism), I think her books can be enjoyed much more if you think of them as taking place, not in the real world, but in an alternate universe that is similar to ours, but just different enough to allow the stories she tells to happen. Does that make sense? I don't think this story could have taken place in the real world, but I don't think it was supposed to. Heart of Darkness was written as a fever dream by man who had seen way too much evil to be able to properly process it (or was that Apocalypse Now? I don't care), and State of Wonder takes place in a similarly dream-like universe that operates by its own rules, and I loved visiting it.

  • Margitte
    2019-04-04 11:35

    From the official blurb:"Award-winning "New York Times"-bestselling author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant) returns with a provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest--a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity."NOTESA little bit of adventure, a whole lot of human intrigue, a slow-moving drama playing itself out on the metaphorical fine line between jungle and civilization; Minnesota acting as the proscenium of the Amazonian main stage, where any human lives can be mastigated in an instance by other humans, and it's not always the locals setting the stage for the dramatic, musical and emotional elements in this opera of the wild ...Medical research, moral highs and lows, professional envy, and riches hidden away in the jungle, are the main elements in this story. Main charactersDr. Annick SwensonDr. Marina SinghDr. Anders EckmanJackie and Barbara BovenderEaster - little boyMilton - the chaufeurRodrigi - shopkeeper I could not connect with anyone in the story. Did not identify with anyone, although I found them interesting characters. Picture perfect in their different roles. Nothing surprising there. Nevertheless, the easy writing style kept me reading and enjoying the experience. It was a truly relaxing and interesting read. Nothing new. But good anyway. The book does not aim to be an emotional spiderweb of entanglement and destruction. Quite the contrary. It's a feel-good memory with a feel-good ending. I needed it.

  • Jenn
    2019-03-25 11:19

    This book has made me despair for the American publishing industry in a way I hadn't, yet. Why despair? Because it is only the constant pressure to produce, to publish, that would make a company like HarperCollins and a writer with the ability of Ann Patchett push forward this work, which is at best uneven and at worst something that I would expect to emerge from a blinded-by-friendship writer's group. Does that seem harsh? If it is, it's because I expect -- perhaps unfairly -- more of Patchett than this book has offered.In State of Wonder, the main character, Marina Singh, is a Minnesotan doctor whose office/lab-mate, Anders Eckman, has died in the Amazonian jungle of Brazil while on assignment for the pharmaceutical company for which they both work. Marina's boss/lover, Mr. Fox, and Eckman's widow, Karen, pressure her to go looking for his remains and the full story of his death. Mr. Fox also wants Marina to finish Eckman's assignment: track down the rogue researcher that the company is funding in the jungle, find out how her fertility project/miracle pill is progressing, and report back.The loveliest scenes in the book happen in Minnesota, where Marina must break the horrible news to Mrs. Eckman and come to her own sad peace with his death. These scenes also offer us some flashbacks about the character that provide further reason for her reluctance to go to the jungle: she knows the rogue physician who's out there, Dr. Annick Swenson, as she was once Swenson's student. A negative experience under Swenson's supervision led to Marina's abrupt shift into pharmacology, away from obstetrics/gynecology, and she's not thrilled to have to face the abandoned mentor again. But go she does, because, as the author is careful to tell us (though not show us), she is a sensible woman who follows and often exceeds directions and orders. It is in Brazil that both the book and its main character lose their ways. There was never much hope for Marina. She is forced to live out the title for the length of the book, constantly in a "state of wonder" that makes her the main engine for silly questions. Though we are meant to believe that she is an intelligent woman of some poise, she is constantly flummoxed, bewildered, exhausted, angry, unreasonable, or just plain weird. It is absolutely realistic to believe that a woman accustomed to Minnesotan living would be out of her depth, immediately, in the Brazilian jungle, but it is tiring to see that she hardly learns from any experience she has. Her extraordinarily commanding and, initially, unsympathetic mentor/hero/objective, Dr. Swenson, is built to point out exactly how unreasonable Marina is acting at every turn -- and while she's often so vocally odious that a reader does not want to side with her, she's also, as the book tells us again and again, right.Ann Patchett's other books have done well at placing "normal" characters into extraordinary circumstances and then showing the internal and external effects. The Patron Saint of Liars was a book that made me believe in the utility of the happy ending again. The Magician's Assistant played beautifully within a created (but well-researched) world of sleight-of-hand, love, and difficulty; the award-winning Bel Canto was bolder in its imagination, and bolder in its reward. That book's ending was almost criminally neat, in some ways, but it was also proof that Patchett knew she would often have to kill her darling characters to create a sense of consequence similar to reality.In this book, as in her last, Patchett's ability to imagine a difficult situation is still firmly in place, firmly wonderful, but her reliance on created coincidence makes the books much more difficult to believe. In Run, a woman just happens to be hit by a car; a boy just happens to see it occur; a family just happens to recognize the significance. In this book, the coincidences are too great to list, but by the time a boat just happens to take a wrong turn down precisely the right river and see the right face at the right time, there's nothing left that's impossible in this world. It is revealed to be completely one of imagination, completely unreal, and though the author lands a few heavy blows at the end to show that it's not a world without consequences, it's all too over-created for a reader to completely believe or care that anyone here could be hurt. We are meant to read this book in a constant state of wonder, perhaps, but to do so requires a suspension of disbelief that I cannot lend Patchett by the end.

  • JoAnne Pulcino
    2019-03-26 13:32

    STATE OF WONDERAnne PatchettThis marvelous atmospheric and multi layered novel takes place in the Amazon jungle where an emissary from a pharmaceutical company dies under mysterious circumstances at a research facility.Dr. Marina Singh is sent to find the remains and effects, but must first locate the famous and reclusive gynecologist, Dr. Swenson who is in charge of the research. Dr. Swenson is researching the women of a local tribe who can conceive well past middle age, and other secret remedies. She and her research are totally off limits except to a chosen few, just she and her research team.Ms. Patchett’s true genius is her ability to write about situations that truly stretch incredibility but you end up believing every word, and even cheering. Very few authors can achieve this kind of rapport with their readers.This is a vivid and emotional trip taking you on a journey so well written you are able to experience it through the eyes of characters you won’t soon forget. The unforgettable native boy, Easter will touch your heart, and linger in your thoughts long after you finish the book.Highly Recommended

  • Sue
    2019-04-19 14:34

    Patchett brings the Amazon to life in this novel. It's a smothering, overwhelmingly hot, green, creature-filled jungle approachable by waters infested with beings that can kill humans in myriad ways. Yet it's also home to tribes of natives who live with and from the jungle. There are fantastic birds and scary insects and snakes. And there may be a cure for infertility. That is the beginning of the story and the basis on which the protagonist, Dr. Marina Singh, travels to Brazil to track what happened to a co-worker who also went there seeking answers for their employer, a pharmaceutical company.Once Marina reaches Brazil, life changes, all is reduced to managing within the confines of the weather. Once she finds Dr Swenson, head of the field study, life becomes the weather, the jungle, the science and the natives place in it all.This is my first foray into Patchett's works. I really need to read more. I was fully drawn in to the characters, the descriptions, the emotions. I even found moments of sympathy for that self-involved scientist, Annick Swenson toward the end as she revealed more of her inner, less steely self. There is too much to say. Just read the book.Highly recommended.

  • Elyse
    2019-03-23 12:28

    3.5 stars! I was enthralled with this story. Yet, Its a good thing I'm writing this review 'now' --because the more I think about the details of the 'entire' story iself, my review could get get lower and lower. I was going to give it 4 stars (some inconsistencies going on in this novel), Yet, this was also a compulsively readable book! Have you ever read a book that you loved 'while' reading it...yet, the more you started thinking about the absurdity of the found yourself laughing? Only to find, more and more 'faults'? T Plot holes are left hanging, hanging, hanging.... Hm??? Is this author thinking of writing a sequel? A pharmaceutical company funds a research project in the jungle (Amazon), that goes on for years --yet they don't know WHERE the researcher is --or what progress she is making ---(yet the company pays her bills). Am I the only reader who finds something strange here?Marina Singh is sent to the Amazon to 'find' her work partner (we are told has died) --to find out where his body is. She does not spend time looking for him? WHY? A little strange too. A 73 year old 'pregnant' medical doctor has NO PLANS on how she will give birth in the jungle with NO OB --(a complicated birth) --Would I want a doctor like this for 'me'? NO!!! I'm still laughing! SEX with the wrong person: Shame on Marina Singh (I'm not even talking moral issues), but her a fricken one night stand was out of character! It only takes away from the story.The Ending was rushed and weak! And...I still liked this book....(but I gotta tell you --it had tons of problems) but then heck, so do I, and most of my friends. I still like myself and most of my friends with problems, too!Sometimes we just like to like messy books --why not?/!

  • Julie - Book Hooked Blog
    2019-04-03 18:21

    My all-encompassing love for Ann Patchett is not a secret. She is my absolute favorite living author and I own every single one of her books. (Side note: remember that time she came to Chattanooga and I couldn't afford to go to the signing - still bitter about that). I've been anxiously waiting on the release State of Wonder for a while now, so when TLC gave me the opportunity to review, you know I was all over it. The day it came in the mail I called Luke at work because I was so excited. And when I started it last week he told me he couldn't believe I had waited three whole weeks to read it. But I wanted to draw out the anticipation as long as I could - and it was SO worth it. The complexity of the plot, the themes, and the characters is way to difficult to describe in detail without giving things away, so I'll just summarize by saying: the Amazon, a miracle fertility drug, anacondas, cannibals, and the mystery surrounding a man's death. Read the full publisher's description here for more details. The book is fascinating and engrossing and below I will tell you all of the reasons why you ought to go find a copy of this book and start reading now.WritingThis novel is no Bel Canto. And by that I don't mean that it isn't as good as Bel Canto - I mean it is so completely different from that novel and everything else that the author has written that the two defy comparison. It's one of Patchett's strengths, I think, that she can craft a beautiful story that is so completely different from everything else she's written. Another thing that I loved about this book in particular, and most of her other books, is that it's not about anything. I mean, it has a plot, and it's obviously got a compelling story, but it's not an issue book. It's not a book about being a woman, or a book about falling in love, or a book about a timely topic. Even though a good portion of the story centers around the development of this miracle fertility drug, the book isn't making a statement about fertility treatments or addressing the current state of pharmaceuticla companies - she's just telling a beautiful, unique story. And, yes, questions of morality and ethics are raised, but not in the way they are in so many "issues' books. Patchett also does an excellent job, as always, with setting. Like Bel Canto the book is set in South America, but that is where the similarities end. The descriptions of the insects, the heat, the trees, the suffocating atmosphere are integral to the story and are conveyed beautifully. I would go as far as to say that the jungle itself is a character in the book and the way Patchett weaves it into every part of the story is engrossing. I have absolutely zero complaints about the writing. Beautiful, moving, engrossing, perfect. Entertainment ValueAgain, not a single complaint. I have to admit that I am not typically one to grab up literary fiction. I think most of the time literary fiction sounds like it's trying to be literary and winds up being boring. It's fashionable to write books about people who are bored with life, which can make for very boring reading. This is an exception to the rule. Not only is the writing amazing, but the book as a whole is engrossing. From the first page I was committed to finding out what would happen to the characters. The characters themselves are believable and largely sympathetic. I love when authors are able to make unlikable characters sympathetic. It's so much closer to real life. People do bad things and make bad decisions, but they also have redeeming characteristics. In reality people are rarely completely wicked or completely noble and pure, and Patchett's characters follow reality. Honestly, I just can't recommend this one highly enough. It hasn't taken the place of Bel Canto as my favorite Patchett book, but it has come in as a very very close second. And really it's hard to compare the two at all because they are such very different books. I rarely recommend a book to every reader. I usually give some stipulation ("You'll love this if you're a fan of YA" or "this one is for people who are interested in romance"), but I truly think anyone and everyone can and should read this one. Seriously. If you can read what I'm typing right now, there is no reason I can think of that you wouldn't love State of Wonder. Major, major thanks to Trish at TLC for letting me in on this tour! For all of the tour information and to see other readers' opinions, check out the tour page here.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-10 10:42

    I read this at my mother's request and recommendation. She rarely recommends books and even more rarely asks me to let her know when I've finished so we can discuss it. And also, it talks place in the Amazonian rain forest, a place where I had recently spent some time. As you can probably tell, I'm delaying the start of this review. The book was okay. And I guess for me it falls into those categories of books I sometimes describe as "writers workshop-y" where the author's hand of god is felt forcefully through out the pages with heavy, purposeful plotting, archetypal characters who speak in pronouncements and orations instead of conversations. Here, there were some interesting nascent characters - Karen the widow, Dr. Singh, Easter. But their nature was so elusive, obscured by the purposes for which Patchett frog marched them through the story. There was a lot of showing done here - as if Patchett wanted to show off how much she had learned about obstetrics and ethnobotony, and through Dr. Swenson's long soliloquies that filed plot holes and lurched the plot forward (and to provide a much-too obvious foil for Dr. Singh). Then there is the end, where several things happened at once and you didn't quite understand why. Why did the author chose to make those choices for the characters and what are we, the reader, supposed to take away from it?This book is still a 3 because it was deftly written and, at times, engaging.

  • Debbie
    2019-04-04 12:17

    omg. Fantastic book! Goes on my favorites list and is in fact one of my all-time favorites!

  • Reddwhine
    2019-03-31 11:34

    The second time around for this one. Ironically this time it was a book club selection that I chose. I was curious whether I would think it was as horrible the second time around. I'm a glutton for punishment, what can I say? Here is my review combined with my previous review...and for the record, nothing has changed.Maybe Patchett and I just don't speak the same English. I disliked Bel Canto intensely but the description of State of Wonder made it seem rather intriguing and so I decided that maybe Bel Canto was a fluke. Wrong! I forced myself to finish this book only because the premise was really interesting and I kept hoping that as I got further into the book it would do something...anything to hold my interest. Marina Singh is a researcher for a pharmaceutical company in Minnesota who has "daddy issues". She is sent deep into the Amazon to find out what happened to her research partner who is dead. He isn't dead but who cares. She is also tasked with lighting a fire under the head researcher Dr. Swenson who at the age of 73 is pregnant and has been dragging her feet for years while Mr. Fox continues to pay for her "research" without any results whatsoever. She is an enigmatic control freak and very unpleasant. Swenson and crew are investigating a new fertility drug (obviously since the old biddy is preggo) that makes women fertile until the end of their lives. Why a woman would want to be fertile until the end of her life is a mystery but whatever, it's in the plot. Seems Swenson is one of the success stories. The cast of characters for this book is a collection of really quirky individuals with not a single one the least bit appealing or likeable. Marina was so flat, her relationship with Mr. Fox so unrealistic and the whole premise of the book so contrived that I found myself rolling my eyes more and more as I progressed through the book. Nevermind Easter and the Anaconda, ugh! After finishing State of Wonder, I was in a state of wonder myself realizing that I'd actually read this entire horrible book TWICE without setting it on fire. I just shook my head at the waste of paper and my time. The only good thing is that it was a library book so I didn't waste my money on this one. One thing for sure, no more Patchett for me.

  • Debbie
    2019-04-10 13:42

    I really liked this story a lot, but at times found myself getting bored. What? Bored? I think this had to do with Patchett's language being so straight forward at times, when what was happening was so fantastical, magical, and extraordinary. It might also be unfair, as I have been reading some very provocative writing styles. This is a story of a secret lab in the Amazon who's researchers have discovered a tribe who have amazing abilities. I won't spoil what these are, only to say they are extremely unusual, and fascinating. A single researcher who is brilliant, yet secretive in her findings. A small group of fellow researchers working in a secluded lab, one who has possibly died. A fellow researcher from the funding company who goes to the Amazon to investigate the death, while having a secret agenda to discover how far along the research has progressed. This same researcher being in love with the CEO of the company. All of these components making this a mysterious read. Yet at the same time, I wanted more focus on the tribes abilities, and what they could mean for the future of our world.One thing is for sure. Patchett's writing of the Amazon itself is superb. I could almost feel it all around me. The dark vastness of the land. It's magnificence and also it's terrors. The not knowing what lies around the next bend. While I would love to visit someday, I'm glad Patchett took me there first.All in all, a wonderful book, who's story I doubt I'll forget. I'd recommend this one.

  • Katie
    2019-03-28 16:26

    I can only give this book 2 stars because the whole thing was so silly. To believe that a giant international pharmaceutical company is going to write checks for research for 2 years without any updates/input/proof of progress from the researcher is crazy. Even crazier, when they finally do decide they want to find out what she is up to, who do they send to find her deep in the Amazon? An employee who works in a lab in Minnesota who has never been out of the country. Then they get word he is dead, so who do they decide to send, ALONE by the way, to find out what happened to him and try to find out what the researcher is up to? His lab partner! That whole premise is just stupid. And she seems to be completely incompetent losing her clothes, 2 satellite phones, etc. And what the hell was up with dreams about her dad? Were those just thrown in there to show that there are bigger things going on than this dumb plot? And really, did we have to have the little sex scene thrown in at the end. It didn't come across as believable at all and seemed completely unnecessary to the plot. I am giving it two stars instead of one because I really liked the characters of Dr. Svenson and Easter. And I was glad they made the point that even if it was possible for women to give birth into their 60's and 70's, they probably shouldn't. I probably would not recommend this book to anyone.

  • ☮Karen
    2019-03-21 11:19

    Most definitely my favorite Patchett book. Such an adventure, interesting and complex characters; and throughout the jungle scenes I found myself thinking of Barbara Kingsolver and the many wonders she has created for us on the pages of her books. I had imagined so many horrible endings from other reviews I read, but nothing like what played out here. The "rushed" conclusion seemed fitting to me, to match the emotions and actions that developed. I know that down the road this story will come back to me anytime the Amazon is mentioned.

  • Debra
    2019-04-01 12:46

    This was my first Patchett book and I wasn't disappointed. I've read the thoughtfully-written positive and negative reviews, and can see the points some people have made about the main character's (Marina) unbelievable naivety, stupid choices, and deep feelings about a seemingly shallow relationship with her boss. Thoughts of marriage to him, come on! One reviewer said she should have run off with Milton and I absolutely agree. I wanted to shake her silly sometimes. And, yes, the science doesn't hold up to scrutiny.BUT... I enjoyed the journey. It was a page-turning adventure to me with a little spiritually and mystery thrown in for good measure. I suspended disbelief and went along for the ride. I rarely found myself stopping and saying to myself, WHAT??? Nothing jarred me out of the story, I was firmly immersed.Was this the greatest writing, the greatest character-development, the most believable plot development I've ever read, no. But it was a unique story, with an intriguing plot, with a wonderful setting (as someone else said, the jungle was a character in itself), and people you cared about, with a shocking plot twist, and it broke my heart.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2019-03-26 15:21

    I had a good time with this book, and would like to give it 4 stars for enjoyment, but some significant flaws detract from my ability to recommend it to others.State of Wonder is about a scientist, Dr. Marina Singh, working for a pharmaceutical company that is attempting to develop a new fertility drug in the Amazon. The company sends Marina to the research site to report on the progress of the drug, the brainchild of Marina’s former teacher, Dr. Swenson. But Marina, naturally, finds much more than she bargained for.The story never failed to engage me; while not hard to put down, I was always happy to pick it back up and read more of Marina’s adventures in the Amazon. Patchett’s fluid, accessible prose is easy to fall into, and she does a good job creating a vivid setting. The relationship between Marina and the formidable Dr. Swenson is especially interesting and true to life, and Dr. Swenson is a great character who steals every scene she’s in; I can’t recall ever encountering a character like her in fiction before, although she reminds me of one or two people I’ve met.But there are some problems. The book’s structure is lopsided; the first 200+ pages out of 350 are introductory, while the conclusion is rushed. Meanwhile, Marina herself is a dull character, as if Patchett went too far in making her a foil for Dr. Swenson; she’s passive, fearful, and so lacking in common sense that she manages to lose all her luggage, twice! There are some point-of-view oddities; while 99.9% of the book is told from Marina’s POV, the occasional jarring sentence seems to come from someone else's head: “Dr. Budi smiled shyly, having made so few successful jokes in her life.” Marina could not possibly be responsible for this comment, having only just met Dr. Budi.The story is also full of improbabilities, beginning with the pharmaceutical company’s allowing someone on its payroll to operate for years in an unknown location and without giving progress reports, and including some important plot points. (view spoiler)[Like, Barbara, Milton, and Mr. Fox, all English-speakers, are on a boat on a remote tributary of the Rio Negro and when a white guy rushes toward them yelling in English for them to wait, somehow only Barbara notices, and she mistakes him for her dead father? Really?Also, the assumption that a drug company wouldn't bother to develop a malaria vaccine that was within its reach because malaria mostly affects poor people? Certainly drug companies are driven by profits, but the plot itself belies the claim that there's no market for such a drug--Marina has to take an antimalarial, and has had to do so every time she traveled to India to see her father. Clearly, there are a lot of tourists (and a lot of people in India) who could and would pay for it if available. Hence the reason you can get vaccines for other diseases you might pick up in less developed countries: typhoid and so on. (hide spoiler)]And as for the ethical issues it supposedly examines.... they are not so much explored as mentioned in passing. Dr. Swenson will explain why she doesn’t think the doctors should treat the local people.... and that’s it; there’s certainly room for readers to discuss the issues, but the book doesn’t follow up with new twists on the question or explore the consequences of the scientists’ choices. This is particularly unfortunate with regard to the local tribe they’re studying. Patchett likely wanted to say something about their treatment (and it’s surely deliberate that the only local character to play any significant role is deaf and literally voiceless), but wound up creating a childlike group of natives, who never get to speak for themselves and apparently have nothing better to do than cheerfully mob the foreign doctors upon all their arrivals and departures. Yikes.Despite the problematic elements, though, I genuinely enjoyed this book. It’s not quite as good as Bel Canto, but for me it was worth the read.

  • Dana Stabenow
    2019-04-01 12:34

    I should have known there would be opera. After Bel Canto, I should have known. I'm sorry, but Patchett, Pretty Woman and Moonstruck notwithstanding, I just can't get behind the idea of opera as a redemptive force.A modern retelling of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, that feels more like Apocalypse Now. Beautifully written. Some good situational humor ("The shaman would no doubt have direct billing with Vogel."). Plot wandery and repetitive, and, I suppose most damning for me, I didn't give a hoot about any of the characters. Sometimes I feel like such a failure as a reader. This book was universally praised by everyone purported to recognize good literature. But it never engaged me on a level other than craft.

  • Sam
    2019-04-15 13:44

    For all its faults and flaws, there is something very sublime about State of Wonder and I really enjoyed reading it, so I'm going with 4 stars.The plot's been discussed many times: roughly speaking, the protagonist, Dr. Marina Singh, embarks on a mission to the Amazon to discover what truly befell her reportedly deceased colleague, and what progress (if any) has been made on a new drug under the direction of her former mentor. But there's much more here as Marina journeys from Minnesota to Manaus to the depths of the Amazon jungle. Knowing that there's a definite nod to Heart of Darkness, we're confronted with various ethical and moral questions about how these well educated Western doctors interact and interfere with the native tribes of the Amazon, and what should or shouldn't be allowed or compromised in the name of science and progress. There is the mystery of Anders' fate to unravel, and the details of the two very important developments coming from the research.Character wise, Marina is our protagonist and guide, and though she begins the story with less real personality and backbone and individual ideas, her physical and emotional journey is well fleshed out, facing demons from her past and triumphing, until at the end we see her as a more confident, capable woman. Most of the secondary characters are just fine without being especially memorable, but her previous mentor Dr Swenson and the deaf tribal boy Easter are both incredibly well-drawn. Dr Swenson begins in our view as a tyrannical genius of intense purpose and gravity, but as Marina draws deeper into the jungle and more of the science is revealed and new moral and ethical questions are asked (and not always answered), Dr Swenson is far more fully represented, her edges softening, shedding the borderline archetype she had been to be more of a true character. Easter by contrast is filled with humanity, light and darkness both, the goodness and strangeness and evils of people all coming into contact with him from childhood to young adulthood. In some ways, he is pure love, all of his relationships are generated from that emotion, and his competence and confidence also stem from that.Why this all worked for me is because Patchett's writing and ability to transport us to the Amazon is amazing. I really felt immersed in the setting, seeing the river, meeting the tribes, feeling the rain. Her descriptions are lush yet subtle, a weird dichotomy that lines up with the nature of the jungle itself. Her description of Marina's visit to the opera house is gorgeous and well rounded, and the anaconda scene is so well written and genuinely terrifying I thought I might succumb to nightmares like many of the characters do throughout, whether drug induced or otherwise.I do think in some ways to enjoy this you have to submit to the pull of the writing and give in to the occasional lapse of logic, and sort of surrender to the titular state of wonder Marina is in and that we ourselves are supposed to be in as we experience this hidden, dangerous, fascinating world. The suspension of disbelief is key, and after previous mediocre reads, I was ready and willing to be transported, and because I was caught by the writing I could forgive some of the plot bumps. It's also unfolds a bit slowly, something I don't typically mind if the writing is working for me because that can propel me along when the plot is not moving as quickly as I might like (clearly, since I bombed through this book and read it in a day).My biggest issue with the novel is its ending. While it didn't ruin the book, it did completely break the spell, and I felt very differently about the last 10 pages than I had about the proceeding 320 some odd pages. I won't spoil it for new readers, but suffice it to say I thought the betrayal devastating and infuriating, and I couldn't suspend my disbelief to think that the character who was the betrayer would act in that manner toward the victim. The subsequent, seemingly random moment of intimacy was also somewhat odd, but less infuriating than what it followed. I did like Marina's clear drive at the conclusion, open ended as to where she would go, what path she would take, but still bringing her to the forefront and in control of her own destiny, versus the start where she'd say yes to whoever asked anything of her and was somewhat passively directing the affairs of her life.Overall, I found this to be a beautifully written read, one that asked interesting questions and immersed me in a different world. But the ending felt a bit off in terms of the narrative, and emotionally left a bad taste in my mouth. Recognizing that I was emotional about it, I'm inclined to say it wasn't a bad ending, just off putting and oddly constructed. So I can stand firm on a 4 star review.

  • Kathleen
    2019-04-08 17:20

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook while driving in my car. The narrator added to my pleasure by giving creditable audible voices to the characters. Ann Patchett expertly drew me into her story, and along with Dr. Marina Singh I willingly promised Karen that I would go to the Amazon jungle and locate Dr. Annick Swenson and find out what happened to her husband. The development of the characters emerged in a natural way with each appearance and interaction in the story. I eventually liked and respected all the characters, but my favourites are Karen, Marina, Milton and the deaf boy, Ester. Ann Patchett's vivid descriptions of the Amazon River and tributaries, trees, undergrowth, natives and their appearance, clothing, shelters, languages and customs, birds, snakes and insects and associated noises, made it easy to visualize the dense jungle in Brazil.The story plot was brilliantly and realistically accomplished in true Ann Patchett style. In my humble opinion the timeline and ending were appropriate and perfect. State of Wonder may be my favourite book authored by Ann Patchett. I loved Bel Canto, the first novel of hers that I read, and also Run, a novel I won from Goodreads nearly ten years ago and The Magician's Assistant. Now I am eagerly awaiting to read Commonwealth, her newest book. Thank you to Ann Patchett for writing this wonderful novel, Hope Davis for expertly narrating it on the audio version I listened to, my local library for making it available and Karen, my Goodreads friend whose review of this book enticed me to locate and read State Of Wonder.5⭐️