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State of Wonder

A book by Ann Patchett

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Not what I expected, but an interesting story nonetheless.

  • May 26, 2011
I struggled with how to rate this book because of the gap between my expectations and the reality. When you're talking about an author as good as Ann Patchett (author of Bel Canto), it's easy to have high expectations, but that can also shoot you in the foot when you expect every book to be as good as those which came before. What I did not get in this book was the elegantly impressive prose that I expected, based on the author's previous work. What I DID get was an interesting story about pharmaceutical research in the Amazon jungle.

A pharmaceutical company finances Dr. Annick Swenson's research for an amazing fertility drug in the Amazon, but the haughty Dr. Swenson has not seen fit to report back to the company on the outcome of her research for some time, so they send one of their researchers, Anders Eckman, down to find her. When HE goes missing, they send his colleague, Dr. Marina Singh, down to find out what is going on with both the drug research and the whereabouts of Dr. Eckman. Once Marina finds Dr. Swenson among the strange but peaceful Lakashi tribe, she learns some amazing secrets that Swenson and her team of researchers has been keeping from the company and, eventually, what happened to Dr. Eckman.

The book left me with unanswered questions, but not so much that it gave me a bad opinion of the book overall. I think the best word to describe my feelings about the book is "underwhelmed." That's not the author's fault so much as it is mine for not managing my expectations going in. It's an interesting story with a fascinating (though not entirely believable) premise and a few memorable characters (Dr. Swenson is one of those characters you will love to hate). It just didn't sweep me away and make me feel passionate about it, which was my expectation based on this author's previous work.

So, in the end, I decided on a rating of 4 stars vs. 3 because, again, I think my disappointment with the book is more about my own expectations than any shortcoming on the part of Ms. Patchett and I don't want to be unfair to her or her book. I will say that the last 50 pages is worth reading the whole book for, but don't skip ahead! You must get to know these characters and see their story unfold in order for the last 50 pages to have an emotional impact on you.

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June 02, 2011
I know what you mean about how one's expectations for an author can make reading later books by the same author a little difficult. This was a good review, Sheri, and I'm glad you were able to put aside your own disappointments to give a very accurate rating of an interesting read!
More State of Wonder reviews
review by . July 22, 2011
Ann Patchett's very successful latest book (#24 in Amazon sales as of this review) is the first of hers I've read, and it is quite entertaining.  About halfway through, I realized how much it was a straight retelling of Conrad's even more gothic and classic Heart of Darkness.        And at that point, Marina Singh, Patchett's hero, hadn't even met her Kurtz yet in the jungle--that would be Dr. Annick Swenson, Singh's med school professor and …
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Sheri ()
Ranked #71
I have been a customer reviewer on Amazon.com for well over a decade and an Amazon Vine reviewer since the program began. I enjoy writing product reviews that will help customers make a buying decision. … more
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Product Description
Ann Patchett has dazzled readers with her award-winning books, includingThe Magician's Assistantand theNew York TimesbestsellingBel Canto. Now she raises the bar withState of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.

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. ...

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ISBN-10: 0062049801
ISBN-13: 978-0062049803
Author: Ann Patchett
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Harper
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