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.
“An engaging, consummately told tale.” New York Times
“Emotionally lucid. . . . Patchett is at her lyrical best when she catalogues the jungle.” The New Yorker
“This is surely the smartest, most exciting novel of the summer.” Washington Post
“The Amazon setting is something Patchett does rather marvelously.… The book is serious, but also so pleasurable that you hope it wont end.” NPR
“Outlandishly entertaining…[with] a brilliantly constructed plot.” Elle
“Packs a textbooks worth of ethical conundrums into a smart and tidily delivered story. . . . Ms. Patchett presents an alluring interplay between civilization and wilderness, between aid and exploitation.” Wall Street Journal
“The large canvas of sweeping moral issues, both personal and global, comes to life through careful attention to details, however seemingly mundanefrom ill-fitting shoes and mosquito bites to a woman tenderly braiding another womans hair.” O, the Oprah Magazine
“A spellbinder from bestselling author Patchett. . . . Thrilling, disturbing and moving in equal measureseven better than Patchetts breakthrough Bel Canto.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An expansive page-turner . . . Patchetts fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure . . . that readers will hate to see end.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A superbly rendered novel. . . . Patchetts portrayal is as wonderful as it is frightening and foreign. Patchett exhibits an extraordinary ability to bring the horrors and the wonders of the Amazon jungle to life, and her singular characters are wonderfully drawn. . . . Powerful and captivating.” Library Journal (starred review)
“In fluid and remarkably atmospheric prose, Patchett captures not only the sights and sounds of the chaotic jungle environment but also the struggles and sacrifice of dedicated scientists.” Booklist
“A thrilling new novel. . . . The world imagined in this novel is unusually vivid. . . . Reading State of Wonder is a sensory experience, and even after its over youll keep hearing the sounds of insects, and your own head will still be hot.” MORE Magazine
“Patchett makes the jungle jump off the page…This is Patchetts best effort since The Patron Saint of Liars and, yes, that includes Bel Canto” Shelf Awareness
“Extraordinary. . . . Is there nothing the prodigiously talented Ann Patchett cant do? . . . Patchetts last knockout pages proceed full-speed ahead, with more twists and turns and trachery than the Amazon River. Nothing is as it seems, and the ending is as shocking as its satisfying.” Boston Globe
“Expect miracles when you read Ann Patchetts fiction.”—New York Times Book Review
Award-winning, New York Times 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 Magicians 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 six novels and three works of nonfiction. She is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, England's Orange Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year, and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Karl, and their dog, Sparky.