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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder (edition 2011)

by Ann Patchett

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4,1513171,206 (3.89)3 / 424
Title:State of Wonder
Authors:Ann Patchett
Info:Harper (2011), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

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English (313)  Dutch (2)  All languages (315)
Showing 1-5 of 313 (next | show all)
If you are going to take on Heart of Darkness, one of the best books ever written (in my opinion), you better do a damn good job. To write a feminist Heart of Darkness is an interesting concept. While placing gender, a missing issue in Heart of Darkness, at the center of its inquiry, State of Wonder unfortunately loses sight of another, perhaps the crucial, element of intercultural encounter. The book constantly implies that brown lives aren't as important as white ones and, unlike Conrad, Patchett has no sense of moral outrage about that. I was on board with the book--which does a great job of mimicking the stifling, airless quality of Conrad's masterpiece for the contemporary world--until its implicit racism became explicit. And a truly awful ending. So good and then so inexplicably bad. What a pity. ( )
  sansmerci | Oct 25, 2016 |
Anders Eckman was sent into the Amazon by his employer, Vogel Pharmaceuticals, to gather first-hand information on a long-running research project. The project director, Dr. Annick Swenson, kept her work under wraps and communicated as little as possible to Vogel management, which naturally gave rise to suspicion. Anders, too, was able to communicate only by a somewhat unreliable mail service. And so it was that his colleague, Marina Singh, learned of his death two weeks after it had taken place. Marina is then tasked with notifying Anders’ wife Karen and, at both the company’s and Karen’s request, travels to the Amazon herself to learn more about Anders’ death, retrieve his belongings, and complete his investigation into the research project.

Marina is reluctant to make the journey for all of the obvious reasons. And, she was once a student of Dr. Swenson’s and has no desire to meet up with her again. But out of loyalty to Anders, she boards a plane and begins a circuitous journey to find Dr. Swenson and the research team. Suffice to say she finds what she’s looking for and then some, and learns a lot about herself along the way.

I know nothing about the Amazon and assume Patchett did her research into the ecosystem, the indigenous people, and the hazards for western travelers. But at times this, as well as the basis for the pharmaceutical research and the related drug development, all seemed a bit over the top. And yet I this book was a page-turner. I was eager to see what would happen next to Marina, and I came to like many of the other characters, even the arrogant and detached Dr. Swenson. Patchett threw in a few twists towards the end that readers will find satisfying, frustrating, or both.

This was not Patchett’s best but was still an enjoyable read. ( )
  lauralkeet | Oct 16, 2016 |
Sigh. I loved this book--like I have loved all of her novels--up until the last 3 pages, when she ruined the whole damn thing with a tiresome, cliche development. The book had so many wonderful things to offer; so many points where I paused to contemplate the greater implications. But now all that stays with me is the pathetic event of the last chapter. What was my favorite author thinking? If not for that, I would have given 5 stars. ( )
1 vote trwm | Oct 6, 2016 |
I have mixed feelings about this one. I think the author tried to address too many themes. Because of that, the characters weren't well developed. For example, scientists are dealing with big moral issues yet no one struggles with aligning their behaviour and beliefs. The plot pushed me to suspend disbelief beyond what I could accept. I might have swallowed the fact that a profit-oriented drug company would let a researcher work for years with zero accountability. Maybe even accepted that said company would send two scientists to the jungle to assess the situation. But why on earth would women want to be pregnant in their 70s? I would have run as far as possible from those damn trees! And peeling off the bark to chew or brew tea is one thing, but to have the women stand and bite/caress the trees is a bit much.

So why did I finish it? I liked Marina (the main character); I really wanted to know what happened to her. And the quality of the writing is good. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 29, 2016 |
Ann Patchett is an author in my second eleven, so to speak - I won't read or enjoy all her books, but the ones I do like I like enormously. This is one of them. A really fascinating plot- think more upbeat pharmaceutical Brazilian Heart of Darkness supported by Patchett's acute observation of people and and nature and her very readable writing style makes this both a page-turner and a book to savour. There's a main character who has committed a bad professional error early in her career and therefore changed focus, a prickly academic doctor/teacher devoted to her research, ostensibly on behalf of the pharmaceutical company who is paying her, and a rich assortment of minor cast members including doctors, natives, and those getting by on their wits in the jungle. Pure pleasure ( )
  Roseredlee | Sep 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 313 (next | show all)
In her latest novel, Ann Patchett, author of the beloved Bel Canto, takes her readers down the Amazon and deep into the rain forest in a book that is part adventure story, part morality tale...This book may be on a lot of book club lists already — but with good reason...
added by Jcambridge | editNPR, Lynn Neary (Jan 1, 2012)
State of Wonder is heavy with literary parallels (to Henry James, to Greek myth), but in this respect the strongest links are to Heart of Darkness, a novel that Patchett substantially rewrites, with Conrad's male text repopulated with female characters (Swenson is this book's Kurtz). It lacks the developed emotional core of Patchett's earlier books, but it is her most mature work to date, a novel that tries to be more alive to the nerve ends of philosophical life than to the simpler machinery of character motivation.
“State of Wonder” is an engaging, consummately told tale. Patchett’s deadpan narrative style showcases a dry humor that enables her to wed, with fine effect, the world of “Avatar” or the “Odyssey” with that of corporate board meetings, R&D reports and peer review...

“State of Wonder” is an immensely touching novel, although as with much of Patchett’s work, its emotional impact is somewhat muted by her indefatigable niceness.
Nail-biting action scenes include a young boy’s near-mortal crushing by a 15-foot anaconda, whose head Marina lops off with a machete; they’re balanced by contemplative moments that give this gripping novel spiritual and metaphysical depth, right down to the final startling plot twist.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Feb 1, 2011)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ann Patchettprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Daddio, Jennifer AnnDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, HopeReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duval, NateCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferguson, ArchieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my friend Jo VanDevender
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The news of Anders' Eckman's death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Years ago, Marina Singh traded the hard decisions and intensity of medical practice for the quieter world of research at a pharmaceutical company, a choice that has haunted her life. Enveloping herself in safety, limiting emotional risk, she shares a quiet intimacy with her widowed older boss. Mr. Fox, and a warm friendship with her colleague Anders Eckman. But Marina's security is shaken when she learns that Anders, sent to the Amazon to check on a field team, is dead - and Mr. Fox wants her to go into the jungle to discover what happened. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the unknown, down into the Amazonian delta, deep into the dense, insect-infested jungle, to find answers from the company's research team. Led by the formidable Dr. Annick Swenson, the scientists are looking into the development of a new drug that could have a profound impact on Western society. But the team has been silent for two years, and Dr. Swenson does not like interlopers inserting themselves into her work, as Marina well knows. The eminent and fiercely uncompromising doctor was once her mentor, the woman she admired, emulated, and feared. To fulfill her mission, Marina must confront the ghosts of her past, as well as unfulfilled dreams and ecxpectations-on a journey that will force her to make painful moral choices and take her to the depths of her own heart of darkness. (ARC)
Haiku summary
endless river
love lost
love found

Everything's easy
after killing


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0062049801, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: In State of Wonder, pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh sets off into the Amazon jungle to find the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. But first she must locate Dr. Anneck Swenson, a renowned gynecologist who has spent years looking at the reproductive habits of a local tribe where women can conceive well into their middle ages and beyond. Eccentric and notoriously tough, Swenson is paid to find the key to this longstanding childbearing ability by the same company for which Dr. Singh works. Yet that isn’t their only connection: both have an overlapping professional past that Dr. Singh has long tried to forget. In finding her former mentor, Dr. Singh must face her own disappointments and regrets, along with the jungle’s unforgiving humidity and insects, making State of Wonder a multi-layered atmospheric novel that is hard to put down. Indeed, Patchett solidifies her well-deserved place as one of today’s master storytellers. Emotional, vivid, and a work of literature that will surely resonate with readers in the weeks and months to come, State of Wonder truly is a thing of beauty and mystery, much like the Amazon jungle itself. --Jessica Schein

Amazon Exclusive: Elizabeth Gilbert Interviews Ann Patchett

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, as well as the short story collection Pilgrims—a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and winner of the 1999 John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. A Pushcart Prize winner and National Magazine Award-nominated journalist, she works as writer-at-large for GQ.

Elizabeth Gilbert: As your close personal friend, I happen to know that you traveled to the Amazon to conduct research for this novel, and that you sort of hated the Amazon--can you share a little about that?

Ann Patchett: I absolutely loved the Amazon for four days. It was gorgeous and unfamiliar and deeply fascinating. Unfortunately, I stayed there for ten days. There are a lot of insects in the Amazon, a lot of mud, surprisingly few vegetables, too many snakes. You can’t go anywhere by yourself, which makes sense if you don’t know the terrain, but I enjoy going places by myself. I can see how great it would be for a very short visit, and how great it would be if you lived there and had figured out what was and wasn’t going to kill you, but the interim length of time isn’t great.

EG: Didn't I hear that you have a sort of magical story about a friend who is also a writer, who was also once going to write a book about the Amazon? Can you share this miraculous tale? Also, is your writer friend pretty?

AP: This friend of mine, who happens to be you, is gorgeous, and much taller in real life. Yes, you were writing a novel about the Amazon, and then you decided not to write a novel about the Amazon, and then I started writing a novel about the Amazon, and later when we compared notes (your book dismissed, mine halfway finished) they had remarkably similar story lines, to the point of being eerie. I thought this must be because it was an incredibly banal idea and we had both come up with a generic Amazon novel, but then you told me that ideas fly around looking for homes, and when the idea hadn’t worked out with you it came to me. If this is true I think your name should be on the cover. It would increase sales significantly.

EG: Readers of your prior work--particularly the luminous Bel Canto--will be delighted to see that opera makes an appearance in this novel, as well. In fact, one of the most dramatic scenes in the book takes place at the opera. Is that a wink and a nod to loyal readers, or just an expression of your own deep and abiding musical passions?

AP: It’s a wink and a nod to Werner Herzog and his brilliant Amazon film “Fitzcarraldo” which opens at the opera house in Manaus where the aforementioned scene takes place. I had very little experience with opera when I wrote Bel Canto, and since then it’s become a huge part of my life. It was fun to write a scene set at the opera now that I know what I’m talking about.

EG: State of Wonder a rollicking adventure story, full of peril and bravery and death-defying action. I personally know you to be a homebody who likes to bake muffins for neighbors. How the heck did you pull off this wildness so convincingly? Was it as invigorating to write as it is to read?

AP: Ah, the life of the mind. All the adventure I need I can dream up in my kitchen. I love writing outside of my own experience, making imaginary worlds. If I wrote novels based on my own life I would not be making a living at this. I also love to write a strong plot. I want things to happen in my books, I want to be thrilled. I always think about Raymond Chandler. I’m sure I’m getting the phrasing wrong but the general idea is that when things get slow, bring in a man with a gun. If you can’t find a gun, a poison arrow works just as well.

EG: The cover is a work of beauty. Authors are not always so lucky. Tell us how you managed such a miracle?

AP: When I first started writing this book, I came downstairs one night and found my husband listening to “Horowitz at Carnegie Hall”. The album cover has a very lush filigreed border. I had two thoughts: first, I have an amazing husband who thankfully held onto his Horowitz LPs; second, that the album cover had the exact the feeling I wanted for my book--half jungle, half Baroque period. When I was finished writing the novel I sent the album to my editor, who sent it to the art department. They understood exactly what I was talking about.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:38 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

A researcher at a pharmaceutical company, Marina Singh journeys into the heart of the Amazonian delta to check on a field team that has been silent for two years--a dangerous assignment that forces Marina to confront the ghosts of her past.

(summary from another edition)

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