I really enjoyed reading this book. I first learned about it by attending a reading by the author at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival. I was attrac...moreI really enjoyed reading this book. I first learned about it by attending a reading by the author at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival. I was attracted to the reading because the topic for the session was "Dual Story Lines" used in literature. In my own writing I've been playing around with such a structure to incorporate pertinent pieces of backstory and I wanted to listen to other authors describe their experiences with using it. In listening to Jeanine Cummins describe her book and her process, I hit the jackpot. She is an engaging and witty speaker, whose reading compelled me to go buy her book. I'm so glad I did! She developed characters that I fell in love with and told a fictional story about the Irish potato famine that had me spell bound, never wanting to put the book down. Ms. Cummins' writing is clear and easy, smattered with humor reminiscent of the author's personal style exhibited during her reading. I highly suggest this book for anyone looking for a great summer read. I will be taking the opportunity to turn to another of Ms. Cummins books to see if the magic continues. (less)
Sometimes you really want to like a book, but try as you might, the book just doesn't do it for you. Such is the case for me and Ann Patchett's STATE...moreSometimes you really want to like a book, but try as you might, the book just doesn't do it for you. Such is the case for me and Ann Patchett's STATE OF WONDER. I struggled to finish this book. The plot not only didn't grab me, but also didn't seem probable or plausible enough to buy into. I've worked in the biopharmaceutical industry for more than twenty years - including on a drug that came from a plant in the jungles of South America - and there were just too many inaccuracies in this book for me to forgive. Maybe it's because it cut too close to my life that I was unable to allow the fictionalization to grab me - I mean, I even lived in Eden Prairie, MN for ten years while working for a small biotechnology company, which is one of the main settings for the book.
As a reader, when a plot doesn't grab you, you hope that the characters might be compelling enough to make you want to follow their escapades, but in STATE OF WONDER I didn't like any of the characters, particularly the protagonist, Marina. They were all flat, one-dimensional and relatively unevolved as human beings in my opinion. So, if neither the storyline nor the characters are likable, it's hard to like a book. After all, reading fiction is supposed to be enjoyable, right?
However, having said all this, Ms. Patchett is obviously a gifted writer. I am envious of her mastery of the craft. Her descriptive ability, especially of place, is astonishing and I learned a great deal as a writer from her by finishing this book. This dichotomy between my appreciation for the craft of writing and the desire for enjoyment and education from the story and characters made it hard for me to rate this book. Therefore, my 'three' rating is based on a ONE STAR for PLOT, TWO STARS for characters and FIVE STARS for writing craft and story structure. (less)