State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

  “Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”

Dr. Marina Singh is enlisted to find out what happened to her friend and colleague, Anders, when he is reported dead by Dr. Annick Swenson, the head of a drug discovery team deep in the Amazon. Dr. Annick Swenson is unreachable and invisible in the wilderness, communicating sporadically by letter. Dr. Singh was taught by Swenson in medical school and the experience of encountering her again brings up old painful memories that Singh would rather forget. The journey into the Amazon unravels a lot of mysteries about Dr. Singh, Anders, Dr. Swenson and the new drug that is being developed which Dr. Singh soon finds out, could change the world.

Though this book was not as entrancing as I expected, it was very enjoyable and I finished quite satisfied with the story and the ending. Dr. Singh is a great character, she is flawed but confident, scared but brave. Dr. Swenson is frustrating and single-minded, very much the researcher in every respect. Anders is loving, generous and never belonged in the Amazon in the first place. There are a few encounters with bugs, heat, fevers, snakes and the wildlife.. but I still wanted more. I wished for more descriptions and more of the jungle life. I really wanted the author to paint a picture of the pure wildness that they were living within. But this book is about the people, who just happen to be in the Amazon, and so it focuses on their thoughts, wishes, emotions and doubts more than anything.

This story revolves on the ideas of love, relationships, sacrifice and morality. How much should we give up for something that could benefit the entire planet? Does the distinction between right and wrong change when the environment changes? What would you risk for someone you loved? State of Wonder explores all these questions and more, wrapped in the heart of the amazon among the tribes and trees.

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4 thoughts on “State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

  1. Like you, I wanted more description of the jungle and life there. I really wanted to feel immersed in this unique environment. I enjoyed the characters (especially Dr. Swenson), but the book left me wanting overall.

    • Agreed! I almost felt like she lost an opportunity by not really making us feel immersed in the environment. But it did keep me interested until the end (which was my favorite part but obviously I couldn’t talk about it!)

  2. What an interesting review. I’ve heard some people rave about it and others say it was horrible. I think yours was pretty balanced and gave an accurate picture of the book. While I thought I wouldn’t be reading this, your review has made me start to consider it again. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • I’ve heard a lot of mixed things too! I definitely think it is because when you read the description, you’re looking forward to this amazonian adventure and that never quite happens. But the story line is good anyway.

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