Ann Patchett State of Wonder: A Novel (P.S.)
This book caught my eye with its interesting cover (sometimes you can judge a book that way) and intriguing description, “a provocative and assured novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest.” I was excited to find that the novel did indeed live up to its cover…
In Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder Dr. Marina Singh travels into the Amazon to discover the truth about the death of a colleague. But, there are more mysteries in the Amazon than answers. Patchett creates a memorable character in Marina, her story haunted me for weeks after I finished reading, and that alone is usually enough for me to recommend a book. However, there is much more to State of Wonder to pull the reader into the story.
Marina’s lab mate and friend, Anders Eckman, dies unexpectedly after travelling down into the Amazon to track down elusive scientist, Dr. Annick Swenson. The pharmaceutical company Marina and Anders work for funds Dr. Swenson’s work, leading to the idea that they all work for the same company and have the same goals.
The story becomes the tale of Marina’s journey on several levels. She faces down past demons, present issues and even (maybe) resolves future dilemmas as well, while certainly creating more for herself along the way. Marina is an interesting character, in part, because she is a woman who is dealing with modern issues, like fertility in older women, juggling career and relationships and accepting that life might not be what one expects. Even when she can be frustratingly slow to push her agenda, or accepting of situations, Marina is an interesting stand in for many women. Her own hesitancy (based on past failures) allows the reader time to really look at the situation from a variety of viewpoints.
Marina meets and interacts with a wide variety of characters, and the one obvious drawback in the story is that the background characters, particularly the staff in the Amazon as well as the tribespeople, are less fleshed-out than they could have been, falling to the wayside in Marina’s mission to deal with Dr. Swenson.
Patchett addresses issues that plague modern society in this novel with a no nonsense approach that forces the reader to bring their own ideas to the book, which is a wonderfully tricky way to deal with a topic without imposes one’s own views on the subject. Patchett creates a character with personal, political and ethical dilemmas yet the novel never feels heavy or slow, even if readers bristle at some (or many) or the characters attitudes and decisions.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett is a solid read, with some less than savory moments that truly make the reader think about an individual’s motivations and the lengths they will go to justify their beliefs.
I read it on my Kindle and I would recommend it to my more introspective and open-minded friends, but I’m not investing any money in it!