Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Title: State of Wonder

Author: Ann Patchett

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: June 2011

Genre: Adult Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Synopsis can be found here


Marina Singh is sent into the unknown, the most remote region of the Amazon, to find her former teacher Dr. Annick Swenson. Dr. Swenson is working on creating a drug for Dr. Singh’s company- a drug that will enable women who are long past menopause to be able to conceive children. A drug that will bring their company millions of dollars. A drug that may be worth more than a life lost along the way.

I haven’t read Bel Canto and had nothing to compare this novel to. I’ve heard wonderful things about Patchett’s writing and decided to listen to the audiobook. No one could have read it better than Hope Davis. She brought Marina to life, and made Dr. Swenson into a clear and sometimes even sympathetic character. And I’d like to mention quickly that the cover of the book is beautiful. It caught my eye right away.

I loved the contrast between Marina and Dr. Swenson. To be honest, I found Swenson much more interesting than Marina. Marina, for all her good intentions, seemed weak and unsteady. Sure, she was pushed into going to the Amazon for a number of reasons, and the left over baggage between her and Swenson didn’t make it any less appealing. But as much as Marina lacked character, Swenson made up for it. A force to be reckoned with, she was strong, selfish and unapologetic. Read the book for Swenson alone, but be warned, she doesn’t make an appearance until almost half way through.

The writing is lyrical, flowing easily with deep descriptions. The Amazon feels heavy, thick and suffocating. Minnesota is clear, clean, cut and dry. The contrasts were beautifully done. I could see Mr. Fox. I could see Anders. I could see Easter, another solid and beautifully written character.

The book is almost cut into two halves. The first is Marina getting to Brazil and trying to locate Dr. Swenson. The second is her exploration of the Amazon and what she finds there. The segue way felt jarring and unnatural for some reason, the book changing direction so wildly it felt like another book altogether. I would have liked more time in the Amazon, more time with Easter and Dr. Swenson. Even though the book was evenly divided between her time in and out of the Amazon, I felt like the timeline was uneven.

I can’t say enough good things about Hope Davis’s performance. I highly recommend the audiobook. 

Rating 7 Pretty Good Would Recommend

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