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Sunday, July 3, 2011

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett


From bookflap:

Years ago, Marina Singh traded the hard decisions and intensity of medical practice for the quieter world of research at a pharmaceutical company, a choice that has haunted her life.  Enveloping herself in safety, limiting emotional risk, she shares a quiet intimacy with her widowed older boss, Mr. Fox, and a warm friendship with her colleague Anders Eckman.  But Marina's security is shaken when she learns that Anders, sent to the Amazon to check on a field team, is dead - and Mr. Fox wants her to go into the jungle to discover what happened.

Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the unknown, down into the Amazonian delta, deep into the dense, insect-infested jungle, to find answers from the company's research team.  Led by the formidable Dr. Annick Swenson, the scientists are looking into the development of a new drug that could have a profound impact on Western society.  But the team has been silent for two years, and Dr. Swenson does not like interlopers inserting themselves into her work, as Marina well knows.  The eminent and fiercely uncompromising doctor was once her mentor, the woman she admired, emulated, and feared.  To fulfill her mission, Marina must confront the ghosts of her past, as well as unfulfilled dreams and expectations - on a journey that will force her to make painful moral choices and take her to the depths of her own heart of darkness.

My thoughts:

Finally! I now know what all the fuss is about when it comes to Ann Patchett.  She is an excellent writer!  Her way with words is amazing - she can weave a story and transport you to a different place with such ease, that you truly feel as if you are trekking through the Amazon jungle.  And, she creates characters that leave you gasping in exasperation or cringing in disgust - characters that are real and flawed.  In fact, take note of the title, State of Wonder, because that is how you are left feeling when you finish the book.  I was left in a state of wonder, for two reasons:  I was awed by Patchett's writing (I need to read Bel Canto and  Run ASAP!) and confused by the bad ending she wrote for this otherwise terrific book.  Weird, eh? To enjoy a book with such a bad ending.  Well, I guess I'm weird.

Now, I'm not really going to discuss the book at length, because I do believe you should experience it for yourself and become immersed in this world that is dark, filled with secrets, and teeming with life.  All you really need to know is that it is a gripping read about a woman named Marina who has gone to the Amazon jungle in search of information regarding the death of her dear friend and colleague, Anders Eckman.  Through this journey Marina is forced to confront her past and present fears that have held her back literally and figuratively.  We are able to see the transformation Marina undergoes and find ourselves rooting for her to succeed.  Unfortunately, the ending comes along and pretty much mucks everything up.  Nothing makes any sense with the characters or story - its as if Patchett grew tired of the story and just wanted it to end.  Regardless of the disappointing ending, I was still thinking about Marina and the Amazon jungle for days afterward.  And I always think that when a book haunts you for days afterward, its a sign of how good the book was.  So, Patchett's was definitely a good book.

I would recommend this one to anyone and everyone interested in a good characer driven story set in the Amazon jungle.  You will be amazed with the story and wonder why you've never read any of Patchett's works before now.  Or at least, that's how I felt.  So, enjoy!! Happy Reading!!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book.

21 comments:

Lisa said...

I'm so glad you loved this! Of the books I've read as a grownup, Patchett's Bel Canto is in my top five books. I'd so hoped that this would live up to that and it sounds like it does!

Aths said...

Yay! I'm so glad that you loved this! I know about the ending - I was a bit flustered initially, but then I kept thinking about the rest of the book for 2 days! You should read Bel Canto - can't wait to hear your thoughts!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting! I wish I knew why you didn't like the ending! I can guess a couple of reasons you might feel that way, but I can't ask you, because it would entail spoilery statements! (I read it but my review hasn't posted yet.) But if you feel like sharing, my email is nbmars AT yahoo DOT com! :--)

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

I loved Bel Canto, began reading the synopsis and decided to skip to your review. I'm so glad I did. I'm now intrigued to read this novel and understand your comments on the ending.

Amy said...

Any book that leaves you feeling in a State of WOnder is a book I want to read! Thank you for a wonderful review. I read Patchett's Bel Canto several years ago and still remember it and how much I loved it. I'm thrilled to know this book had a similar impact on you. Now to get myself a copy :o)

Ti said...

I haven't cared for her other books, so this one is on the back burner for me (at the moment). So many enjoy her work though so I know it's just me and my fussiness that causes me not to jive with her work.

heathertlc said...

I haven't read any of her books yet myself but I am really wanting to pick this one up - it sounds like it would be perfect for me.

Thanks so much for the review and for being a part of the tour!

wordsandpeace said...

I just posed today my combined reviews of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, and I have something about the ending, I believe this is actually one of Patchett's strong points. If you have a minute have a look at my review and tell me what you think:
http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/bell-canto-and-state-of-wonder/
Emma @ Words And Peace

Nadia said...

Lisa, I did except for the ending. I'm just glad I finally read Patchett, because now I realize what I've been missing ;) Need to read Bel Canto soon!!

Aths, I'm definitely reading Bel Canto soon - seems like that is the Patchett book to read! I read you review and loved it, because we are in sync about the ending and the fact that the book does haunt you for days afterward :)

rhapsodyinbooks, thanks for you email - I need to drop you a line about the ending since you've read the book. Can't wait to read your review of it!

Joan, obviously I need to read Bel Canto - everyone loves that one! And glad you read the book and understand what I mean about the ending - it was just not in sync with the characters or story.

Amy, thanks! And seems like Bel Canto must be one of my next reads, since its gotten so much love from everyone! Can't wait!!

Ti, that is so funny! Love your honesty! I'm usually the one who doesn't like what everyone else loves :) Hope you do get to read State of Wonder at some point. And I'm definitely reading Bel Canto and Run soon - I have to see if they really are as great as everyone says ;)

heathertlc, you will enjoy this book! And thanks for having me :)

emma, I'm definitely going to check out your post - I'm intrigued! Thanks!

Ondrej from James Patterson Book List said...

A book set in jungle? Say no more, I'm going to get it.

Nadia said...

Ondrej, you will love it!

Laurie C said...

Not sure how you feel about audio books, but Bel Canto (narrated by Anna Fields) and The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett (narrated by Karen Ziemba) were both excellent audio versions.

Nadia said...

Laurie C., I've never really tried audiobooks before, but I'm thinking of starting. Thanks for the heads up on those two :)

booksaremyboyfriends said...

I was also not a fan of STATE OF WONDER's ending. But as not-awesome as SOW's ending is, that's how AWESOME the ending of BEL CANTO is. Get on it, girl!

Nadia said...

BAMB, thanks! I'm definitely moving Bel Canto up my TBR list :)

christa @ mental foodie said...

I felt the same way - and I wish the ending was different! There were 2 things I didn't like about the ending... here's my review if you are interested: http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2011/06/book-review-state-of-wonder-novel-by.html

Nadia said...

Christa, the ending was just not good, was it? I'm gonna go and check out your post - thanks!

theoncominghope said...

I really enjoyed the novel, but I had a big problem with Marina's character. She was kind of a blank slate at best.

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

Melinda Brasher said...

I didn't like the ending either. SPOILER ALERT. I'm surprised more people haven't commented on the bit with Easter--the stupidity of Marina taking him with her in the first place, the quickness with which they surrendered to what happened, the glossed-over guilt, Swenson's comment about "oh well, he knows the jungle." It just seemed odd, and yes, perhaps like Patchett was just tired of the story. I also thought there was a missed opportunity for real culture shock at the very end. Hmmm.

I can't remember much about the ending of Bel Canto, but I LOVED it all, so I can't imagine the ending disappointing me.

Belgie said...

This book kept me interested until the end. The story got better and better and ends with a twist that you don't see coming. I couldn't put it down until I was finished.

Ceska said...

I loved Bel Canto and have recommended it to many people. Bel Canto set my expectations for this book. Alas, it didn't measure up. This is much more of a character-driven story than a plot-driven story, and I was somewhat bored for maybe the first third of the book. But based on my love of Bel Canto, I continued reading.

I'm glad I did, because the more I read, the better it got, until I was fully absorbed in the story. Still, the plot line is preposterous. Would a pharmaceutical company hot on the trail of a revolutionary and potentially highly profitable drug leave the research deep in the Amazon jungle to Dr. Swenson, a female scientist of a certain age who refused to report her progress? Not likely! And would such a company send one and then another research scientist into the vast jungle to locate Dr. Swenson and find out the status of the research