Title: State of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Marina Singh is a researcher for a pharmaceutical company and is content with, if not fulfilled by, her life. Her world is thrown into upheaval, though, when her colleague and friend, Anders Eckman, is killed in the Amazon jungle. Anders had gone after Dr. Annick Swenson, a scientist researching a miracle drug but who has completely stopped communicating with the parent company funding her research. Now, at the behest of Anders’ widow, Marina must go deep into the Amazon jungle to learn the truth behind Anders’ death.
State of Wonder is a gorgeously written and contemplative novel about overcoming self-doubt in order to find your place in the world. Marina Singh is crippled by a lack of professional self-esteem. When she was a medical school resident, she made a mistake that shattered her confidence in herself as a doctor. Since then, she has pursued research, shunning patient work in favor of the impersonal work of pharmaceuticals. But when Marina is asked to confront Dr. Swenson, it brings all those doubts and fears back – after all, Annick was the attending physician on duty when Marina made her mistake.
Marina’s internal struggle is just one of the battles to be fought over the course of State of Wonder. Marina must fight against the side effects of Lariam, an anti-malarial medication that gives her nightmares and hallucinations. Dr. Swenson fights for her right to do her research without hindrance, while Marina must fight to make Dr. Swenson understand that there must be accountability. The entire research team must fight against the dangers of the Amazon jungle. Battle is a constant theme in this novel; each character must fight against the others, and sometimes the world around them, for what they think is right.
Patchett’s writing is gorgeous and atmospheric in State of Wonder. She does an incredible job portraying the closeness of the Amazon jungle, ensuring that her readers can feel the humidity on their skin, can hear the buzzing of the insects, can sense the danger the jungle presents. Her writing is thoughtful and makes this novel flow easily.
State of Wonder is not a novel to pick up if you’re looking for a quick, action-packed read. In fact, if this were any other writer, the plot might be considered a bit thin. However, Patchett fills the book with her glorious writing, ethical issues, and character exploration, and the result is a beautiful, wild, and utterly devastating novel on the nature of science and humanity. If you’re looking for a gorgeously written novel that will really make you think, this is definitely a novel to seek out.