Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blog Tour and Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Thanks to Trish once again from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  Here is a description of State of Wonder from the Harper Collins website:

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past. 

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations. 

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side. 

My Review:
You may think that I am corny, but I have to start this review by saying that Patchett left me in a "state of wonder" after reading this amazing novel.  It obviously takes an artistically creative mind to create a novel of this magnitude, so Kudos to you Ann Patchett!

Marina is our main character in this novel who works as a pharmacologist in Minnesota.  She is a single woman in her forties and seems to be unsettled about the path that her life has taken.  When one of her co-workers is sent to the Amazon jungle, but doesn't return because of his presumed death, the company decides to send Marina to Brazil not only to find out how Anders died, but also to get an update on the research the doctors are doing for the company.

Little does Marina know that her trip to the Amazon will be a way for her to confront the demons of her past.  She can't help but wonder if she can revisit her past and try to strive for the goals that she had originally set.  As Marina confronts her fears she realizes this life has much more to offer to her.

Marina adapts quickly to life in the bug-infested Amazon.  Friendships are made quickly with other doctors performing their own research, but she becomes especially attached to a young native boy who happens to be deaf.  She allows Easter to be her guide, but it turns out that he needs her just as much as she needs him.  While staying with the tribe, Marina is amazed at the additional research that is being done at the expense of the company he works for.

Patchett takes us deep into the Amazon, creating a tribe that seems to defy medical science.  I don't want to give any more of this novel away, so when you read it you will be amazed by the "wonder" of it all.  With themes of survival, medical science, and friendship, I honestly think that many of you will enjoy this novel as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for personal leisure or as a book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

12 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I liked this novel, too, but the end just didn't work for me. What the characters did didn't suit them at all.

wordsandpeace.com said...

I loved it very much, including the ending! I love how Patchett ends her novels. see my review of State of Wonder and Bel Canto: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/07/05/bell-canto-and-state-of-wonder/

Ti said...

This one just doesn't call to me at all. I've considered it a few times but it's not jiving with me. I read Lost City of Z which is a true account of a missing explorer and I think that was enough of an Amazon fix for me.

Nise' said...

I enjoyed this one on audio!

Jo-Jo said...

Kathy: I have to admit that at first the ending bothered me. But after further consideration decided that in that situation people may be likely to do things that are out of character.

Wordsandpeace: Thanks for stopping by! I'm definitely going to go check out your reviews. I also enjoyed Bel Canto by Patchett.

Ti: I can understand why one can take only so much of the Amazon. Snakes freak me out for one and there was a snake episode in this novel that about put me over the edge!

Nise': I'm glad the audio was good too. I have a friend that does most of her reading through audio so I may have to suggest this one to her.

Alyce said...

This is the only book I've read of hers so far and I enjoyed it very much too. I liked speculating about what happened to the characters after the ending.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I a big fan of "disease books" and exotic locations so I'm sure I'll really get into this book.

Thank for being on the tour! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

stacybuckeye said...

I have this one on my shelves but I haven't felt compelled to pick it up yet. Maybe I'll wait for when I'm in the mood for an exotic vacation.

Sverige said...

The main characters in State of Wonder lead sterile lives empty of real human involvement; their work is their love. Marina has been having an affair with Mr. Fox for almost a year and is ready to marry him, but she clearly thinks of him as "Mr.Fox" more easily than "Jim." Mr. Fox himself seems almost robotic; what man would send the woman he loves to a jungle where another employee has died under unknown circumstances? Dr. Swenson is described as Marina's "mentor", but she comes across as a complete tyrant with no feelings for other people. In sharp contrast, Easter cannot communicate verbally but expresses his feelings very clearly physically in ways that are innocent but suggest the sexual. The Lakashi routinely greet with extensive touching. Even the young Australians are very demonstrative physically, with Marina as well as each other. Everyone can connect except the main characters.
Patchett is a marvelous writer. Many reviewers have commented on her skilled descriptions, which communicate mood as well as paint a picture. I enjoyed tremendously her imaginative metaphors to convey a character's emotions, such as Marina thinking that Dr. Swenson always made her feel like Oliver Twist holding up his bowl.

Jo-Jo said...

Alyce: Bel Canto was another one of Patchett's that I enjoyed.

Heather: It was definitely interesting from the disease perspective.

Stacy: I think this is the last book I would pick up if you're in the mood for an exotic vacation...yikes! lol

Sverige: Mr. Fox was definitely an interesting character, and I enjoyed how he was always referred to as "Mr. Fox." Patchett does have a way of creating amazing characters!

PattisPages said...

The best book I've read this year!

Man of la Book said...

I liked State of Wonder as well (my thoughts:http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=5355). I thought the writing was fabulous but felt the ending was rushed.