State of Wonder
By Ann Patchett
Completed June 17, 2011
Dr. Marina Singh was safely nestled in her lab at Vogel Pharmaceuticals, when her CEO (and secret lover) announced tragic news: Her colleague, Anders Eckman, had died on assignment in the Amazon jungle. In a few short days, Marina would find herself in Brazil to resume where Anders had left off – to discover what the brilliant but elusive Dr. Annick Swenson was up to in the jungle (on Vogel’s dime). Marina also had a personal mission: to find out what happened to her friend.
To complicate the story, Dr. Swenson and Marina shared a past. The elder physician was Marina’s professor in medical school, and as the story progressed, we learned why Marina went from a future obstetrician to a pharmacologist. Marina hoped Dr. Swenson wouldn’t remember her from their days together at Johns Hopkins, but just the presence of Dr. Swenson made Marina relive her past – and her mistakes.
State of Wonder is a delightful story of self-discovery. Marina goes from a Ph.D. in a lab to a physician in the jungle. She faced her fears and learned things that few would be able to know. Most importantly, Marina learned more about herself.
Patchett’s depiction of the characters in this book was exquisite. Marina was an easy heroine to root for, and Dr. Swenson, despite her acerbic ways, grew on you. Even the minor characters shined under Patchett’s pen. My favorite was Easter – a deaf boy who lived in the tribe where Dr. Swenson studied and became a surrogate son to many of the Vogel employees who came to the camp.
State of Wonder does force its readers to suspend many levels of disbelief, though. Admittedly, I had a hard time accepting some of the events that occurred in the story: Marina trampling around the jungle with only flip flops on her feet; an incredible fight with an anaconda; pregnant 70-year-old women, and psychedelic blue mushrooms and fertility-enducing tree bark that were consumed by the natives. Too much? Maybe, but the story moved me right along, and I didn’t cast too much of a second glance at these hard-to-believe details.
In the end, Ann Patchett once again delighted her fans- and probably earn some new fans along the way. State of Wonder is an excellent voyage for readers who love when characters learn about themselves – and come out at the end with more trust, courage and self-happiness. ( )
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