State of Wonder

Have you ever finished a book and thought “thank God I finished?” I just did. Not one to quit a book, I struggled through finishing Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. As you well know, most of my reads come straight off the New York Times Bestseller List. I’m not sure if it’s because I want to read what everyone else is reading, or if those books are always right at the front in Barnes & Noble. Anyway, I chose this book knowing its high status on the Bestseller’s list, also knowing its plot wasn’t the typical plot I’d go for.

I know what kinds of books I like, and this one wasn’t one of them. It’s an adventure novel, and follows the trials and tribulations of a doctor who ventures out into the Amazon. Now that I think about it, the plot and setting reminds me a lot of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I read Heart of Darkness in my AP English Literature class during my senior year of high school and was not a fan. The antagonist in Patchett’s novel, Dr. Marina Singh, ventures out into the Amazon much like Conrad’s Marlow. Patchett’s book wasn’t quite as plagued with symbolism as Conrad’s, however.

Anyway, Dr. Marina Singh ventures out into the Amazon on a search for one of her fellow doctors, Anders Eckman. Eckman is a highly respected doctor at their hospital, and he traveled to the Amazon never to return. He is believed to be dead by seemingly everyone but his wife. A typical coping mechanism, I presume. Singh brings only her massive amount of emotional damage (failed surgeries and a switch from gynecology to pharmacology) to the Amazon, her other baggage has been lost.

Upon arrival, Dr. Singh is exposed to the insect-infested Amazon, a far cry from her metropolitan home of Minneapolis. Although she adapts not-so-quickly to her new daily life, she adjusts her doctoring habits to her surroundings. The doctors she meets with in the Amazon are studying the mysterious Lakashi tribe, where women in their mid-70s are fertile and giving birth. This is where Dr. Singh’s previous pharmacological studies come in handy. Dr. Singh finally meets her idol and former mentor, Annick Swenson, who she later learns is experimenting with Lakashi ways on herself.

What Dr. Singh finds and learns while in the Amazon is incredibly interesting. As usual, I found the personal relationships Patchett has developed the most interesting. I’m always amazed at how well authors develop their characters, so much so that they seem very real.

I don’t want to mislead you, though. It’s not very often where I’m disappointed by a book that is so highly regarded. I struggled through reading this book and keeping interested in it. It took me over a week to finish, which is a long time for me to read a book.

I wanted to get through the book, just so I could see how everything turned out. I have to say, I was happy with the ending, but more happy that I was finished. I’m looking forward to beginning my next book, Chris Cleave’s Gold. I’ve read both of his other books, Little Bee and Incendiary, and have thoroughly enjoyed both. It looks like this one is about an Olympic cyclist. I have pretty good timing, huh?


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