2012 Morning News Tournament of Books Nominee
What if women could become pregnant into their 70s? What if a woman's fertility could be increased exponentially? What if the ever-encroaching biological clock disappeared? Ann Patchett takes us deep into the Amazon in search of answers to these questions in her latest novel.
The amazingly long fertility window in the female members of the Lakashi Amazonian tribe is the subject of study for a group of doctors. When head researcher Dr. Swenson, after a decade of study, refuses to come home, share her work, or even report back to her bosses, Dr. Eckman, is sent in after her. When Dr. Eckman turns up dead, Dr. Singh is sent in to bring back his body, but also to shake loose Dr. Swenson's research results. What follows is a terrific story of survival, curiosity, culture shock and acclimation, as Dr. Singh makes her way through the jungle and finally tracks down Dr. Swenson. A story thread involving a deaf-mute child, who has somehow defected from a rival tribe, is sweet and eventually astonishing.
Patchett has laser-like insight into her characters; they never feel anything less than real. With anacondas, a hailstorm of arrows, unsanitary surgery, big-business-pharmaceutical greed, ethnocentric interference, and a great story buoyed by wonderful characters, this is a must-read. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Ann Patchett has dazzled readers with her award-winning books, including The Magician's Assistant
and the New York Times
bestselling Bel Canto
. Now she raises the bar with State 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. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations.
In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.
"Patchett (Bel Canto) is a master storyteller who has an entertaining habit of dropping ordinary people into extraordinary and exotic circumstances to see what they're made of. In this expansive page-turner, Marina Singh, a big pharma researcher, is sent by her boss/lover to the deepest, darkest corner of the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague, Anders Eckman, who had been dispatched to check on the progress of the incommunicado Dr. Annick Swenson, a rogue scientist on the cusp of developing a fertility drug that could rock the medical profession (and reap enormous profits). After arriving in Manaus, Marina travels into her own heart of darkness, finding Dr. Swenson's camp among the Lakashi, a gentle but enigmatic tribe whose women go on bearing children until the end of their lives. As Marina settles in, she goes native, losing everything she had held on to so dearly in her prescribed Midwestern life, shedding clothing, technology, old loves, and modern medicine in order to find herself. Patchett's fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure, a juggernaut of a trip to the crossroads of science, ethics, and commerce that readers will hate to see end. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchett's fiction." New York Times Book Review
"Ann Patchett, who held readers captive with Bel Canto
, her 2001 novel about a famous opera singer and a group of international dignitaries taken hostage by Latin American terrorists, is back in form with her mesmerizing sixth novel, State of Wonder
. Set in the Amazon rain forest, Patchett's new book is a dramatic, transportive adventure story that takes on issues of medical ethics, cultural respect, friendship, love and loyalty." Heller McAlpin, NPR
(Read the entire NPR review
Bestselling author Ann Patchett returns with a provocative and assured novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest. Infusing the narrative with the same ingenuity and emotional urgency that pervaded her acclaimed previous novels Bel Canto, Taft,Run, The Magician's Assistant, and The Patron Saint of Liars, Patchett delivers an enthrallingly innovative tale of aspiration, exploration, and attachment in State of Wonder a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.
About the Author
Ann Patchett is the author of five novels: the New York Times bestselling Run; The Patron Saint of Liars, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Taft, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize; The Magician's Assistant; and Bel Canto, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize, the BookSense Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of two works of nonfiction: the New York Times bestselling Truth & Beauty and What now? Patchett has written for many publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, Gourmet, the New York Times, Vogue, and the Washington Post. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.