Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

15 Jul

State of WonderMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, largely because it isn’t really like anything I’ve read before.

Summary via

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina’s assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina’s research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend’s death, the state of her company’s future, and her own past.

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher’s expectations.

The uniqueness of this book is not just the setting, although I admittedly have very little experience with books set in the Brazilian wilderness. In fact, I’m not thinking of any others offhand.

And it’s not just the medical thriller aspect. I read a bunch of those years ago, but it’s been a while. If research was involved, it was somehow involving a disease that would escape or unwilling research participants. In State of Wonder, the researchers were on the trail of an existing cure for infertility. Better yet, it actually looked at the ethics involved, both with the research and the cure.

The unusual plot and setting were what set State of Wonder apart. These built on a base of amazing writing and great characters. I don’t normally comment on the writing, but I went from this to a book that lacked in this area. I could really see what a difference it made in my overall enjoyment of the book, even when I don’t stop to appreciate the individual words.

I do usually comment on the characters, and they were a strength here. I thought Dr. Marina Singh was interesting as an M.D. turned researcher who is at a standstill in her life– until she is pushed into this trip to Brazil, forcing her to confront her past, present and future.

But as much as I liked Marina (as a character and as a person I’d like to meet), it was the other characters that really fascinated me– none more so than Dr. Swenson, living in the Brazilian jungles in her 70s. What is driving her to continue her research? Why does she avoid all contact with the company that sponsors her work? What secrets has she discovered?

State of Wonder was readable, enjoyable and thought provoking– an all-around win!

I read State of Wonder as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC and HarperCollins for sending me a copy and allowing me to participate in this tour! For other opinions on this book, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours


Posted by on July 15, 2011 in books, reviews, tour


Tags: , , , ,

12 responses to “Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

  1. Julie @ Read Handed

    July 15, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Sounds fascinating. Also sounds like something that could be easily made into a movie – action, adventure, and mystery! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. emmac6

    July 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Thanks for your great review. My favorite character in the book may actually be Easter. I reviewed both State of Wonder and Bel Canto together. My review is here:
    Emma @ Words And Peace

  3. Sandra

    July 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I recently finished this book and liked it very much too. I like any story about medical issues or set somewhere I will never get to see. This was my fourth Patchett novel and I can recommend them all: Bel Canto*****, Run****, The Patron Saint of Liars****.

  4. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea

    July 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I hope to start this one next; it sounds great!

  5. Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books

    July 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I haven’t yet picked up STATE OF WONDER. I just loved BEL CANTO, and haven’t read another book by Patchett that feels as completely solid. I guess I’m afraid I’ll set my expectations too high … having said that, I’m sure I will read it … someday!

  6. Rebecca Rasmussen

    July 16, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I have been dying to read this! Great Review! 🙂

  7. Heather J. @ TLC

    July 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I am DYING to read this one – it sounds like exactly the kind of book I most enjoy.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  8. Leslie

    July 16, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I’m half way through this book and am enjoying it. Lots of interesting characters and of course the medical research mystery.

  9. theoncominghope

    July 29, 2011 at 5:41 am

    I really enjoyed the novel, but I still think Marina was a bit of a blank slate character.

    My thoughts are here:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: