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3.6 out of 5 stars23
3.6 out of 5 stars
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2011
I didn't know anything about this novel before I bought it and was not familiar with Ann Patchett.

Set in the Amazon, Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, finds herself on a remarkable quest. She is looking for Dr. Annick Swenson, who has been working in the Amazon on a valuable new drug for years. The company is unable to gauge her progress and so first sends Marina's colleague, Anders Eckman, to find Dr. Swenson. He dies under mysterious circumstances so Marina is sent to see what she can find out about Anders' death and Dr. Swenson's research.

From there the story takes many twists and turns. Marina gets sidetracked by a young Australian couple who is protecting Dr. Swenson, but eventually she does get to the research station in the jungle. Dr. Swenson, can be ruthless, but also strong and principled. While discovering a tree whose bark could lead to increased fertility in women, she stumbles upon another cure - one which she is protecting - even from the pharmaceutical company she works for because she fears they will not want to develop it.

I really felt like I was in the Amazon while reading this book. I loved all the characters, who are often drawn with great honesty and affection.

I thought the book was amazing and now I am going back and reading all of Patchett that I can get my hands on. I'm 70 pages into Bel Canto and loving it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 29, 2013
Ann Patchett is a gifted writer who's always interesting (for me) to read. Here her descriptions of American scientists and the Amazon jungle are wonderful. This book doesn't quite work, IMO. There are long draggy parts and I found myself skipping pages. Patchett's plot has a Heart of Darkness quality to it, though here it's more Heart of Primal Innocence Meets Self-Deluded North Americans. I finished reading this only because it was a book club requirement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
This book makes reference to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." According to Joseph Conrad, there are three levels of darkness: [1] the darkness of Congo Wilderness [2] the darkness of the Belgiums' cruel treatment of the African natives [3] the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.

I would recommend that the reader think about how the above three points relate to the book "State of Wonder."


State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was a good book. It was fun to read. The words, sentences and paragraphs were well-constructed. The whole book seemed to flow like an Amazon river that at times I would lose track of the plot. I enjoyed the sense of adventure in the story and I enjoyed Marina's character. I don't think she was overly ambitious, nor do I think she had a purpose in her life. Like the early years of Buster Keaton, I believe Marina's character embraced life rather then trying to control it. I believe the book to be mostly about Marina's character however there is no doubt that Ann Patchett did touch on some very modern 2011 issues.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2011
(...)I was disappointed by the beginning, all the books teaching you how to write mention how important the beginning is, how it can hang a novel or be the key to its success. I tried twice: it couldn't be a boring dissertation about the dull life of a lab guy who died, I thought, how is that women's fiction?!
The book acquires substance in layers, you get hooked. The main character, Marina, is 42 years old, a bit of a misfit hiding away from her life in a pharmaceutical lab, having given up surgery over a hasty mistake, not getting over father's issues, which are not even clearly known to us... I also completely disagree with her sluttish attitude at the end, no matter how many excuses Ann fabricates in order to save the face of her main character.
The story is enticing though. And it surely looks like Marina would get over her lassitude, her cocooned environment, her ludicrous fears and would learn how to live, and more importantly, that she has to, clock is ticking and we all have a limited license on life.
Ann makes us travel to Brazil, to the Amazon jungle, the tribes(more details about the Lakashi, who she forces Marina to live with). The plot focuses on a discovery that is of groundbreaking importance to science, so Marina''s journey is full of symbols. The descriptions of characters and places, of attitudes and circumstances are incredibly well tackled, casually thrown in, although of high importance. (...)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2012
I just finished this book and I really enjoyed it.
From start to finish the reader is emersed in the Amazon. This book is so vividly well written you feel like you are there with the characters every time you pick it up. You feel the bugs, the heat, and moisture of all the foilage that make up the forest. You "are" gently floating in a boat with your hand dipping in the water as you look around you at all things beautiful and unknown in a state of wonder.
The pharmaceutical company plot is very intriguing, and hooks you right from the start as you follow the characters from the city to the amazon.
Also weaved around and inside this main story; Ann Patchett flawlessly writes about her characters loves & loss, emotions and mistakes; and the lives lived in between. This is a beautifully written book that leaves you thinking for a while after. This is one of Ann Patchetts Best!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2011
I really enjoyed Ann Patchett's new novel, "State of Wonder" . Having read 'Run' and not particularly enjoying it, I was pleasantly surprised .
One of the characters, A 'Dr Swenson', reminded me of a doctor here in my home town, and if they ever made a movie about this novel, I would be disappointed not to see a similar face portrayed !
The whole concept of 'conceiving' into our 70's makes me shudder - who would want to!!? But I found the 'Lakashi ' tribe to be quite believable - even their hardy welcoming !
I was a bit disappointed ( and sad ) at the end. Infidelity and abandonment - I won't say more ....
Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. It is unique read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2012
Although I really enjoyed Bel Canto, this book definitely tops that one. I was drawn in right from the start, and now that I am finished it, I miss the characters, and find myself wondering how they adjusted to life in the real world after their return from the Amazon. I felt like I was living in Marina's skin and experienced life in the Amazon without actually having to suffer its discomforts. I thought the characters were well developed and I could practically see them. It was excellent storytelling in my opinion, and would recommend it highly, especially for those with a scientific/medical bend. Looking forward to her next novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2012
This marks the third time that I have dipped into the writing pool of Ann Patchett and let me tell you, she does not disappoint!
Dr. Marina Singh embarks on a trip to Brazil in an effort to determine two things: What happened to her colleague, who had died there scant weeks ago and what kind of progress was being made by her former mentor in the development of a new fertility drug that was being funded by her pharmaceutical company. Both of these tasks prove to be most complex and difficult to acheive. Her former mentor's work is at the center of her journey and involves a little known tribe of people whose ability to procreate extends well into their seventies and proves to be as closely linked to their life's rituals as the environment in which they live.
Patchett is such a fine writer that you become an unseen guest on this quest into the Amazon rain forest. Encounters with cannibals, poison arrows, humongous anacondas, pyschedelic fungi and the ever incessant, insect infested jungle. OH MY! This one left me in a State of Wonder.
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on April 30, 2014
After reading Bell Canto, which I admit took a bit of time for me to get into, but then I loved it, I found State of Wonder to be a great letdown. The characters were boring and one dimensional. There was none of the rich relationship connecting that was done in Patchetts previous books like Run and Bell Canto. The theme of the book sounded quite intriguing but it didn't come through in the story telling. I finally gave up half way through the book. You know it's a bad sign when you are wondering why the chapters are so long and I readily put the book down in the middle of the page versus 'just reading one more chapter' for the books I love.
Thank goodness, I only borrowed it from the library. Don't let the overall 3.5 Star rating fool you.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2011
When I saw this book and heard the author interviewed on CBC it sounded intriguing but I didn't immediately realize she was also the author of 'Bel Canto'. Once I did, it was the reason I purchased 'State of Wonder'. However, this book proved a great disappointment.
Although the descriptions of the Amazon river, indigenous people and jungle were interesting, and Patchett is a skillful craftswoman, even though I read this book only a week ago, I've already forgetten the name of the protagonist. Unlike the characters in 'Bel Canto', those populating S of W, were in no way compelling- perhaps it was the portrayal of them as having 'clinically scientific personalities'(read bloodless) which I found off-putting- the love affair, could it be called that, with her boss; her search for her collegue which ended in a sexual encounter that given his background story seemed to me implausible and almost an afterthought and the brief and mild guilt at returning her young guide to his 'tribe' in a trade made me think this woman was as emotionless as the snake she described in great detail....and the Uber-scientist whose only comment after a caesarian was 'remember to save the specimen'.....chilling. On CBC Patchett spoke about her protagonist as someone shy and reserved and in no way adventurous and as if the book explored her transition beyond that but that just didn't happen in the reading, which I felt was a real error in character development - I you got no sense that her experiences in the jungle changed her in any way and that she'd go back to exactly the same life and relationships in spite of what had happened. How dismal!
However, after such widely divergent feelings over the two Ann Patchett novels I have read, I suppose now to be fair I'll have to read another to see whether she is someone I want to continue to read - as I devour the writings of Joyce Carol Oates and Sebastian Barry!
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