Snotchocheez's Reviews > State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
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's review
Aug 24, 2011

really liked it
Read from August 24 to 28, 2011

(4.5 stars)

If there was ever a consummate go-to escapist book to tide you through the dog-days of Summer, "State of Wonder" is it. Ann Patchett's "Heart of Darkness"-esque tale is a rollicking good time: the strength of the storyline compels you, drags you along, transports you, like it or not, to a place unbeknownst to most, a place few would care to visit, but after reading leaves the reader with a gratified feeling that Ms. Patchett deigned to take us there (despite leaving us bruised and bloody and covered with a multitude of insect bites). The only reason this doesn't get five stars from me is the pacing felt a little off; the first half moved at a slow, languorous pace, giving us clear, honed, detailed characterizations of its protagonists, and providing a strong foundation to build the rest of the story. Unfortunately, the second half seemed raced through, as if Ms. Patchett had a strict directive from the publisher to keep her page count under 350.

The heart of this wonderful pharmacological (hmm...pharMYCOlogical even) tale is Dr Marina Singh, a drug researcher for Vogel Industries (a prescription drug manufacturer). Marina is tasked with trying to find out why a fellow researcher who had gone to the Amazon had died, and to determine the status of research on a fertility drug conducted on a tribe of indigenous Amazonians, the Lakashi. The researcher heading up the project, a reclusive 70-year old ethnobiologist named Annick Swenson, had been very stingy with information about the progress of the project (eschewing normal lines of communication like email and even the phone) so Marina's tasked with a fact-finding mission to get answers. And, indeed, gets a bunch of them...probably way more than she bargained for.

Ms. Patchett's greatest asset is her ability to adequately convey a sense of place. Be it the frosty Minnesota prairies or the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reader is transported alongside the principals, feeling one's nostril cilia freeze in a Eden Prairie winter, or sweeping (not swatting, if you please) malaria-borne insects from sucking out your will to live in a Manaus, Amazonia, Brazil summer. If Ms. Patchett had afforded as much time in creating the denouement as she had on establishing the set-up, this could've been just perfect. But with a slew of second-rate books out there these days, I'll gladly settle for almost-perfect anytime. I can't wait to read some more of what she's got to offer.
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Comments (showing 1-2)

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Kathy Just got this at the library, curious to hear how it is!

Snotchocheez Thus far, despite a weensy-bit of implausibility, I'm enjoying it. Review forthwith. (can't quite decide if you'll like it though).

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