State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

9781408834671Title: State of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
Pages: 384
Year: 2011
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Time taken to read: 10 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, “State of Wonder” presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity. As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, “State of Wonder” is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest’s jeweled canopy.

I started out giving this four stars, but after a day to reflect, I am bumping it up to five stars. I never expected to like this at all. Adult fiction just isn’t my thing. Adults are boring. From my 22-year-old perspective, adults are lucky because they already have their lives figured out, so I don’t care about their stories. But the agent I work for absolutely loves Ann Patchett, and this one had the coolest cover and title, so I went for it, and I’ll tell you, State of Wonder was really incredible.

All the characters had me feeling so many emotions. I was surprised by how much I related to Marina despite the fact that we have pretty much nothing in common besides being human females. I think it was mostly her anxiety and the way her last surgery haunted her. I felt her embarrassment, her shame, her guilt. I felt it through every little time I’ve let someone down. And of course there was Easter–he melted my heart over and over. And even Anders, who was absent for about 99% of the book. The things he left behind affected me, all his letters and everything, and the remnants of his time with Easter, the notebooks with the words written out. I was also really fascinated by the science. As far as I can tell the Lakashi tribe is completely made up, and I don’t know if there are any tribes that can be pregnant well into old age, but I felt the intrigue and the need for answers right alongside Marina. And I felt Dr. Swenson’s urgency and passion. I think the book started off slow, but it becomes clear that it’s worth it pretty soon, and by the time you get to the end, it’s like you’re being punched in the face with emotions and hugged by the writing. I felt devastated when it was over–I wanted to stay in the jungle with Marina and the Lakashi forever. I just never felt like I was reading a book while I was reading this. It was always more like I was being swallowed by it.

Yeesh, these are hard to write after a full day of writing similar reviews of terrible/average manuscripts. My reviews have been slowing down anyway since I have manuscripts to read all the time now. Hash tag lit life.


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