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State of Wonder: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 8, 2012
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“An engaging, consummately told tale.” (New York Times)
“Emotionally lucid. . . . Patchett is at her lyrical best when she catalogues the jungle.” (The New Yorker)
“This is surely the smartest, most exciting novel of the summer.” (Washington Post)
“The Amazon setting is something Patchett does rather marvelously.… The book is serious, but also so pleasurable that you hope it won’t end.” (NPR)
“Outlandishly entertaining…[with] a brilliantly constructed plot.” (Elle)
“Packs a textbook’s worth of ethical conundrums into a smart and tidily delivered story. . . . Ms. Patchett presents an alluring interplay between civilization and wilderness, between aid and exploitation.” (Wall Street Journal)
“The large canvas of sweeping moral issues, both personal and global, comes to life through careful attention to details, however seemingly mundane—from ill-fitting shoes and mosquito bites to a woman tenderly braiding another woman’s hair.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)
“A spellbinder from bestselling author Patchett. . . . Thrilling, disturbing and moving in equal measures—even better than Patchett’s breakthrough Bel Canto.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A superbly rendered novel. . . . Patchett’s portrayal is as wonderful as it is frightening and foreign. Patchett exhibits an extraordinary ability to bring the horrors and the wonders of the Amazon jungle to life, and her singular characters are wonderfully drawn. . . . Powerful and captivating.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“A thrilling new novel. . . . The world imagined in this novel is unusually vivid. . . . Reading State of Wonder is a sensory experience, and even after it’s over you’ll keep hearing the sounds of insects, and your own head will still be hot.” (No Source)
From the Back Cover
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.
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 tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest's jeweled canopy.
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The basic plot of "State of Wonder": In the first sentence we learn that Dr. Anders Eckman is dead. Anders had traveled deep into the Amazon at the behest of his employer, a Minneapolis-based pharmaceutical company that has a researcher working at a secret site on a secret drug that will revolutionize the world. But the researcher is incommunicado. Anders was sent to investigate. And then tragedy strikes. With few details about his death and no body (he was hastily buried in the jungle), Dr. Marina Singh, Anders's officemate, is sent to the Amazon to find out what happened to this married father of three young boys. And so begins a state of wonder in which the reader will be carried with descriptions so vivid that it's easy to envision the chaos and blistering heat of the jungle and almost hear the squawking birds and screeching creatures that inhabit it. Marina's perfectly ordinary life has been upended and will never be perfectly ordinary again.
But the book is so much more than plot--no matter how riveting and engrossing. It is also about people, our connections, the choices we make and the effects those choices have on us and others.
I expected a book about exploring the Amazon. The first half of the book was all about the main character, a doctor and scientist, and her work and personal relationships in Minnesota. By the time she flies to Manaus to look for a lost colleague, one is already half-way through the book.
Eventually, the person she is waiting for in Manaus shows up, and she follows them into the jungle. From here, her experiences are so different from what I would have expected, yet interesting and profound. I really enjoyed stepping into this woman's shoes and experiencing everything she experienced. It's like adventure travel, combined with science and moral dilemmas, and calls for bravery in multiple situations. To my surprise, the book winds up with a very satisfying ending.
I would give this book 4 1/2 stars if I could. I will definitely read another one by this author