After having read a State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, here are a some thoughts on this emotional and powerful read.
The story starts out with Dr. Marina Singh learning of the death of her colleague Dr. Anders Eckman. The scene where Marina breaks the news to Dr. Eckman’s wife is heart-wrenching. In this opening sequence, the reader becomes aware of Marina’s feeling of abandonment when Mr. Fox leaves the room and she’s forced to tell Karen the news on her own. Marina is also very conflicted because she’s aware of her employer’s role in the death of her colleague. Patchett’s writing immediately hooks you into wanting to know more about the story and its characters. It’s not a fast-paced book but her prose is enthralling.
Ann Patchett transports her readers with her writing. In Bel Canto we are trapped with the hostages in the confines of a mansion in a poor South American country. But in State of Wonder, the setting is much grander in scope. I don’t know if her descriptions of Manaus and the Amazon are correct but they are evocative. I was able to picture the oppressive heat, the humidity-filled air, the torrential downpours, the muddy waters of the river, and the claustrophobia-inducing darkness of the Amazon jungle. Patchett illustrates the harshness of the conditions but through the story we are also made aware on the fragility and complexity of this ecosystem.
Dr. Marina Singh, the protagonist, embodies a quiet strength that allows her to take in stride many of the setbacks she encounters in Manaus and the Amazon. Yet, it’s the character of Dr. Swenson that I found the most interesting. Dr. Swenson’s intense focus and belief in her convictions leads her to make decisions that many would find ruthless or unethical. Except for a few demonstrations of vulnerability, she seems to be in complete control.
These are just a few themes that struck me as I was reading but there is much more to this story. State of Wonder is definitely one of the best books I’ve read in 2011 but don’t take my word for it. I encourage you to pick up a copy and see for yourself.