I am still scratching my head at this one. STATE OF WONDER was an okay read, but not half as good as COMMONWEALTH. I had a hard time getting into this book. I think it might be the lead protagonist, or it might be because of the setting. The fantastical elements were hard to believe and the situation is not something I could easily envision.
Dr.Marina Singh works for a pharmaceutical company named Vogal. Her office partner, Dr.Anders Eckman was sent the Brazil’s amazonian jungle to check up on Dr.Swenson, who is researching a new drug to help women with fertility. Anders dies suddenly while there and so Marina is sent to find out what happened, and what is taking Dr.Swenson so long. Dr.Swenson supervised Marina’s residency and is the only one privy to an incident that made Marina switch professions from medical doctor to pharmacology. What Marina finds when she meets the tribe Dr.Swenson is studying, is both magical and sobering.
“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”
I could sum up my experience with this story in that quote. I wanted an adventure story featuring a woman tackling the jungle and discovering things about herself. What I got was a well described mission which ended in the best possible place. Since my ideas about what this story would be were completely incorrect, let’s move on to what this story did for me.
I am walking away from this book with no big revelation. Was I expecting too much after reading the author’s most recent story? Perhaps. I will say that the descriptive writing is something not to be missed. I could feel and smell this story. I could easily hear the place the protagonist landed and her scattered state of mind left me to wonder what I might have been focused on if I were thrust in the same situation.
The small details in this story got the most focus. The characters were well drawn. The problem I had was relating to any one of them. Vogel is a place where pharmacists end up working with medical doctors and Marina is kind of in love with her boss. Once we get to Brazil, no one speaks the language. The characters we meet there are all strange and dreamlike. The whole experience really felt like fiction.
Marina would be a hard to relate to character for just about anyone. Women generally do and feel more things than Marina. Marina did not over analyze anything, not even her sorted love affair with the boss. I couldn’t see myself, or any woman I know, in Marina. Marina is not a carefree spirit, so her actions during important times made me more confused than anything. Marina manages to loose her cell phone and her luggage twice in this story, although neither were big concerns for Marina.
The research was not that interesting to me. Dr.Swenson is working on finding out why women in a village in the Brazilian amazon were still having babies way past their reproductive age. Dr.Swenson ends up discovering people with an immunity to Malaria. I don’t even remember what they did with that information. The character journeys were much more interesting to me.
The ending was actually the most surprising. I sailed through this story with unrelateable characters only to find myself with an unexpected ending. I don’t regret reading this. The author is a brilliant writer and therefore I could enjoy anything she produces. I just wish STATE OF WONDER would have had a more realistic protagonist.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Published by Harper Collins on June 7th 2011
Length: 12 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Fiction, General
Also by this author: Commonwealth
Audiobook provided by My Wallet (purchased)
“Expect miracleswhen you read Ann Patchett’s fiction.”—New YorkTimes Book Review
Award-winning, New York Times bestsellingauthor Ann Patchett returns with a provocative andassured novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazonrainforest. Infusing the narrative with the same ingenuity and emotionalurgency that pervaded her acclaimed previous novels Bel Canto, Taft, Run, The Magician’s Assistant, and ThePatron Saint of Liars, Patchett delivers anenthrallingly innovative tale of aspiration, exploration, and attachment in State of Wonder—a gripping adventurestory and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name ofdiscovery and love.