20 January 2014

book review: state of wonder

state of wonder by ann patchett

this book overwhelmed me.  sometimes it's easier to talk about the emotions one experiences after watching a thrilling movie, listening to a soaring piece of music, or reading a heart-wrenching book.  after finishing this book, all i wanted to do was just sit for a while and remember it and then never forget it, because how often in the monotony of daily life do we get to experience those types of powerful emotions?  especially those that can come from some words written on a page that originated in someone's imagination?  

following this period of reflection i will undoubtedly want to get myself to a bookstore and buy every one of ann patchett's books (except bel canto, i feel so fortunate that i already own that one and can  re-read it immediately) and then i want to find where ann patchett lives and knock on her door and ask her what book she's working on now and can i please be her beta reader?  state of wonder is aptly named -- the sheer plot of the novel leaves me feeling dizzy knowing someone could come up with such an idea and weave it into such an incredible story -- but the title also describes the way the reader is left feeling after flipping that last page... i feel just awestruck.  but... i'll try to step back from my emotions for a moment and summarize the plot.

vogel is a pharmaceutical company based in minnesota (oh how i love stories that are based in my neck of the woods, i kind of feel like i'm in on a secret!) that is blindly funding research led by an elusive dr swenson in the middle of the amazon.  when the president of the company, mr fox, reaches a point of frustration in not knowing how the research is progressing, what data has been accumulated, and if the scientists are any closer to creating the drug they have spent years working on with a local tribe, one of the pharmaceutical doctors, anders, is sent down to check things out.  this doesn't end well for anders and a letter arrives announcing his death (don't worry, this is not a spoiler).  anders's coworker, marina, is the next logical individual to try to track down dr swenson and bring back some answers about her commitment to finishing her research and supplying the pharmaceutical company with a viable drug they have been promised.

marina begins her journey to brazil and, after running into dr swenson in the main town of manaus, travels back with her to a remote village off a tributary along the amazon.  she assimilates into life with the tribe and life in the lab and finds herself becoming a respected and important part of the work there.  but what about her late friend and coworker, anders, whose wife back in minnesota is desperate for some answers regarding his death?  and what about her obligation to her employer, mr fox, who is also her secret lover?  will she make it out of the jungle and back to minnesota alive, or will she be forced to stay in the amazon and continue with the research her former professor started?

i know!

have you read any of ann patchett's books before?  was i convincing enough that this is a book you need to read?  my head is still spinning it was so good!

No comments:

Post a Comment