Let’s Talk State of Wonder

July 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 17

Let’s Talk State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 7th 2011
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 353
Source: purchased


For the month of June I joined a casual readalong led by Care of  Care’s Books and Pie, along with Debbie, and Katie, for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I thought it quite fitting to do so as I visited Parnassus Books for the first time while at a conference in Nashville. {Side note – if you ever get a chance to visit Parnassus Books created and run by Ann Patchett, be sure to do so!}.

This is not going to be a typical review post, and in fact I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and include spoilers. So if you haven’t read State of Wonder and you plan to – DON’T READ THIS POST YET. And if you are a traditionalist and simply don’t want to know spoilers, DON’T READ THIS POST. And in case you haven’t gotten get the gist yet SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILERS UP AHEAD!!!

I’m not sure why I have never read an Ann Patchett novel because once I read the synopsis of State of Wonder it sounded like the absolutely perfect read for me – a little bit of Clive Cussler trekking through the jungle, some James Rollins and big business conspiracy all wrapped up neatly in a literary package.

Our main character, Marina, works at a large pharmaceutical company as a researcher. She’s worked closely with Anders, her co-worker until he was sent to the jungles of Brazil to track down another doctor doing research for the same pharmaceutical company. When the book opens we learn that Anders has died from an unknown fever and the doctor he had been searching for, and found, buried him in the jungle. Well Anders’ wife is not good with either the idea her husband is dead nor that he was buried thousands of miles away. The CEO of the pharmaceutical company, Mr. Fox, is not good with it either. He still had not received the information Anders went to Brazil to get. So, we have Marina coerced by both Mr. Fox and the wife of Anders to go find out what happened, bring him home, and discover what the heck is going on at the research facility in the middle of the Brazilian jungle.

So many small threads of storylines ran through State of Wonder.

  • Marina and Mr. Fox. They’ve been dating for a number of years and she thinks he’s about to propose in the car as he takes her to the airport but instead he gives her a phone?!? Talk about symbolism! Mr. Fox is her boss, CEO of the company she works for, and though he is a widower, Mr. Fox refuses to acknowledge their relationship. What is up with that! Why does Marina put up with that? They even have to go out of town to dinner where no one will recognize the two together.
  • Marina, the wife and the co-worker. Marina has to tell the wife the horrible news of Anders death while the wife comes to rely on Marina to ‘find him and bring him home.’ The pressure on Marina from both the wife and Mr. Fox is unbelievable! The wife cannot leave because of their children and Mr. Fox is only thinking of his company.
  • Marina and Dr. Swenson. Is Marina going to become a Dr. Swenson just as the good doctor anticipates? Will Marina break and tell Mr. Fox it is a cure for malaria and not the miracle pregnancy drug he’s expecting? I was surprised Marina had the strength to walk away – or maybe it wasn’t strength but more she was completely broken by the end?
  • Marina and the Lakashi people, where the research facility is located deep in the Brazilian jungle. Staying in the jungle amongst the Lakashi allows Marina space and time to focus on becoming comfortable in her own skin and to be able to shed a certain Mr. Fox. Do you think there was any attraction to Milton, the driver and Marina’s often-time rescuer?
  • And most tragic of all, Easter and his relationship with everyone in the research facility, especially Anders, Marina, and the doctor. I’m still disturbed by the ending and it’s been over a month ago I read the book. On the one hand I can understand why Anders did what he did, BUT on the other hand my heart breaks, I’m shocked and horrified. What a philosophical nightmare ~ who is most at fault here? The doctor who kept Easter? Anders that gave him away? or Marina for taking him to look for Anders when she refused to take anyone else from the camp?

This book was a wonderful escape. While there were moments I had to suspend my disbelief {like the anaconda scene}. . . . although I do know of someone who picked up a copperhead just like the local Lakashi picked up the anaconda, so suspending disbelief over that scene was not quite as difficult! I was somewhat thrown off by how proficient Easter seemed to be at most everything.  An unlikely hero yet a hero nonetheless.

Now I’m off to read everything Ann Patchett has ever written. Highly recommended for men and women! For anyone who fell in love with Indiana Jones or enjoys the adventure novels of Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Lincoln Child – with lots of fantastic descriptive writing.

Have you read State of Wonder? What are your thoughts on that ending?


17 Responses to “Let’s Talk State of Wonder”

    • Stacy

      Ack! You just had to share that with me, right! I’m a devoted re-reader….will be sure to keep tissues on hand when I re-read State of Wonder!
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  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I loved this book too, but it’s been so long since I read it that I can’t remember the ending with Easter. Grr. I DO remember the anaconda scene and it was terrifying…I’m so scared of snakes.

    And – I remember my main takeaway from this book was that, even if it’s medically possible to have a baby very late in life, there are a million other reasons why it might not be such a great idea (the first one being it takes a TON of energy to raise that baby!).

    Looking forward to her new book coming in Sept!
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    • Stacy

      That anaconda scene was horrifying! I think I had nightmares about it for a week afterward. Not a big fan of snakes here either.

      And you got the main takeaway – I cannot imagine having a baby at 44 much less at 64. Keeping my 5 year old grandson for the day wears me out!

      Oh my gosh! Until I read your comment I had no idea Patchett had a new book coming out in September! Then I found an excerpt in the Netgalley fall teaser – so so good!

      {and Easter? returned to his birth tribe}
      Happy August Sarah! Hope you’re getting in lots of Olympics!
      Stacy recently posted…July in ReviewMy Profile

    • Stacy

      My thoughts exactly! Only way I was able to reconcile it in my head is that because Anders had been amongst the tribe, he knew how serious they were when demands were made? Perhaps he just didn’t even try to negotiate because of that fact? But I’m with you, it did seem completely out of character. Have you read any of her other books?
      Stacy recently posted…July in ReviewMy Profile

  2. Marcia Lengnick

    I have been a fan of Ann Patchett for YEARS….Her first book THE PATRON SAINT OF LIARS remains one of my favorites. I am glad you have discovered her..AND last Fall when we drove to Normandy, TN we made a stop at Ann’s Bookstore…It’s been recently remodeled and expanded so I’m sure it’s even more glorious. LOVE those Shop Dogs!!!

    • Stacy

      Those shop dogs are the best, right! If I ever get my own bookstore I’m definitely going to have shop dogs!

      So would you recommend my next Patchett book being The Patron Saint of Liars? She’s got a new one coming out in September, Commonwealth, that I’m interested in as well. Thinking I’ll start with Patron Saint though. I’ll let you know how I like it 🙂
      Stacy recently posted…July in ReviewMy Profile

  3. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    This was my first Ann Patchett, as well, and it made me an instant fan. I’ve read a few others by her and they are all great but this one sticks out in my mind, still. I’m so glad you loved it and thanks for the spoilers – I had forgotten some of the book!

    • Stacy

      This was my first but definitely not my last! I read an excerpt of Commonwealth that comes out in September. it sound great as well. Not sure another Patchett novel will have quite that same effect as this one!
      Stacy recently posted…July in ReviewMy Profile

    • Stacy

      You bring up an excellent point ~ Patchett’s novels ARE so varied! One of the things that makes her such an interesting author. Do you plan to read Commonwealth that comes out in September?
      Stacy recently posted…July in ReviewMy Profile

    • Stacy

      Do you know I had Bel Canto on my shelves for a few years but never read it! Then I read this one and want to read everything she ever wrote, BUT now, Bel Canto has disappeared! I even remember starting it several years ago, and at the time it just didn’t resonate. I knew I’d come back to it one day. Now I’ve just got to find it again! Aargh! crazy bookish problems, right!
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  4. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’ve read this and Bel Canto and I adored the writing in both. Both were missing something for me though and I can’t put my finger on what. I think I feel a slight disconnect from her characters. Whatever the reason, her writing is so beautiful, I’ll probably keep trying her books to see if I find one that I connect with more. I’m glad you enjoyed this one!
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    • Stacy

      That’s interesting you share about the disconnect. I tried to read Bel Canto a few years ago and simply could not get into it. I even put it away on my shelves to try again at some future date {of course, now I can’t find the darned thing!} So I know what you mean about her writing being beautiful but her characters somewhat distant. Now I’ve got to find another copy so I can re-try Bel Canto!
      Stacy recently posted…July in ReviewMy Profile

  1. Best Fiction Read in 2016

    […] State of Wonder by Ann Patchett Buy the Book Amazon | Barnes & Noble My first Ann Patchett book and definitely will not be my last. […]

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