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State of Wonder

A book by Ann Patchett

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Heart of Darkness II: The State of Wander

  • Jul 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 mentor who had disappeared into the Amazonian jungle in search of a wonder drug.  But it isn't drugs that give the book its title, rather it is the facing of new ways of seeing the world and the necessities of life that is truly a "state of wonder" for Marina as she acquaints herself with the totally new environment engulfing her and reacquaints with the mentor who had completely forgotten her.

Patchett is a good storyteller, dropping deep twists and revelations quietly and unobtrusively in the middle of her simple prose so that the reader (and the characters) have to leap back up the page to be certain of what they have just read.  But in the end, what kept this book from getting my highest rating was the tamed modernity of it.  While Conrad drove us to the cliff and over, Patchett is really telling us more of a romance--between a girl and her father, her mother, her boss, the greater world outside her beloved Minnesota--than the gothic and yes, classic, Heart of Darkness.  In that telling, she pulls back from the edge, and even though the quick twists carry through to the end, at the end it seems more of a tame diversion than a life-threatening ride.

Still and all, Patchett's Wonder does cut a wide swath through the reader's State of mind, and has well-earned all the accolades and sales it has gotten.

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review by . 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 …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #37
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … 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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