State of Wonder: A Novel

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Overview

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 ...

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State of Wonder

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
“Emotionally lucid. . . . Patchett is at her lyrical best when she catalogues the jungle.”
NPR
“The Amazon setting is something Patchett does rather marvelously.… The book is serious, but also so pleasurable that you hope it won’t end.”
Wall Street Journal
“Packs a textbook’s worth of ethical conundrums into a smart and tidily delivered story. . . . Ms. Patchett presents an alluring interplay between civilization and wilderness, between aid and exploitation.”
New York Times
“An engaging, consummately told tale.”
Elle
“Outlandishly entertaining…[with] a brilliantly constructed plot.”
Washington Post
“This is surely the smartest, most exciting novel of the summer.”
MORE Magazine
“A thrilling new novel. . . . The world imagined in this novel is unusually vivid. . . . Reading State of Wonder is a sensory experience, and even after it’s over you’ll keep hearing the sounds of insects, and your own head will still be hot.”
Shelf Awareness
“Patchett makes the jungle jump off the page…This is Patchett’s best effort since The Patron Saint of Liars and, yes, that includes Bel Canto
Booklist
“In fluid and remarkably atmospheric prose, Patchett captures not only the sights and sounds of the chaotic jungle environment but also the struggles and sacrifice of dedicated scientists.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“The large canvas of sweeping moral issues, both personal and global, comes to life through careful attention to details, however seemingly mundane—from ill-fitting shoes and mosquito bites to a woman tenderly braiding another woman’s hair.”
Boston Globe
“Extraordinary. . . . Is there nothing the prodigiously talented Ann Patchett can’t do? . . . Patchett’s last knockout pages proceed full-speed ahead, with more twists and turns and trachery than the Amazon River. Nothing is as it seems, and the ending is as shocking as it’s satisfying.”
No Source
“A thrilling new novel. . . . The world imagined in this novel is unusually vivid. . . . Reading State of Wonder is a sensory experience, and even after it’s over you’ll keep hearing the sounds of insects, and your own head will still be hot.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“The large canvas of sweeping moral issues, both personal and global, comes to life through careful attention to details, however seemingly mundane—from ill-fitting shoes and mosquito bites to a woman tenderly braiding another woman’s hair.”
Elle
“Outlandishly entertaining…[with] a brilliantly constructed plot.”
Library Journal
Marina Singh, who's given up her medical practice for the relative quiet of pharmaceutical research, finds her world upturned when she's suddenly sent to the Amazon. A field team there, working on a new drug, has been unresponsive for two years, and Marina's colleague Anders, who has gone to investigate, is reported dead. An adventurous story of science and responsibility from the ever-popular Patchett, who's being rewarded with a one-day laydown on June 7, a 300,000-copy first printing, and a 12-city tour. Buy multiples.
Kirkus Reviews
A pharmacologist travels into the Amazonian heart of darkness in this spellbinder from bestselling author Patchett (Run,2007, etc.).

Marina Singh is dispatched from the Vogel pharmaceutical company to Brazil to find out what happened to her colleague Anders Eckman, whose death was announced in a curt letter from Annick Swenson. Anders had been sent to check on Dr. Swenson's top-secret research project among the Lakashi tribe, whose women continue to bear children into their 60s and 70s. If a fertility drug can be derived from whatever these women are ingesting, the potential rewards are so enormous that Swenson has been pursuing her work for years with scant oversight from Vogel; the company doesn't even know exactly where she is in the Amazon. Marina, who went into pharmacology after making a disastrous mistake as an obstetrics resident under Dr. Swenson's supervision, really doesn't want to see this intimidating woman again, but she feels an obligation to her friend Anders and his grief-stricken wife. So she goes to Manaus, seeking clues to Dr. Swenson's location in the jungle. By the time the doctor turns up unexpectedly, Patchett has skillfully crafted a portrait from Marina's memories and subordinates' comments that gives Swenson the dark eminence of Joseph Conrad's Mr. Kurtz. Engaged like Kurtz in godlike pursuits among the natives, Swenson is performing some highly unorthodox experiments, the ramifications of which have even more possibilities than Vogel imagines. Indeed, the multiple and highly dramatic developments that ensue once Marina gets to the Lakashi village might seem ridiculous, if Patchett had not created such credible characters and a dreamlike milieu in which anything seems possible. Nail-biting action scenes include a young boy's near-mortal crushing by a 15-foot anaconda, whose head Marina lops off with a machete; they're balanced by contemplative moments that give this gripping novel spiritual and metaphysical depth, right down to the final startling plot twist.

Thrilling, disturbing and moving in equal measures—even better than Patchett's breakthroughBel Canto(2001).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062349545
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/16/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 170,531
  • Product dimensions: 4.40 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three works of nonfiction. She is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, England's Orange Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year, and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Karl, and their dog, Sparky.

Biography

Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles but raised in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she studied with such notable authors as Russell Banks and Grace Paley before getting her first short works published. She labored long and hard in the trenches of Seventeen magazine (where her talents went largely unrecognized), before striking gold with her ambitious first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of 1992 and subsequently made into a major motion picture.

Since her auspicious debut, Patchett has crafted a handful of elegant novels, garnering several accolades and awards along the way. But her real breakthrough occurred with 2001's Bel Canto, a taut, psychological thriller set in the claustrophobic confines of an embassy under siege in South America. Winning both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize, Bel Canto catapulted Patchett into the ranks of bestselling authors.

As if to prove her versatility, Patchett departed from fiction for 2004's Truth & Beauty, the heartbreaking account of her longstanding, difficult friendship with the late Lucy Grealy, a gifted writer whose disfigurement from cancer precipitated a tragic descent into addiction and death. This memoir won several literary awards and appeared on many end-of-year best books lists.

Success breeds success; and with each book, Patchett's reputation grows. Perhaps the secret to her popularity has been captured best by Patchett's friend, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler. "She is a genius of the human condition," he says. "I can't think of many other writers, ever, who get anywhere near her ability to comprehend the vastness and diversity of humanity, and to articulate our deepest heart."

Good To Know

In 1997, The Patron Saint of Liars was adapted into a TV movie, and Patchett also helped to write the screenplay for Taft, which was optioned by actor Morgan Freeman for a feature film.

Patchett knew absolutely nothing about opera before writing Bel Canto; she began her research with Fred Plotkin's book Opera 101.

In our interview, Patchett shared some fascinating facts about herself:

"I've never had a television."

"I brush my dog's teeth every morning."

"I got a pig for my ninth birthday and haven't eaten red meat since."

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    1. Hometown:
      Nashville, Tennessee
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 764 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(271)

4 Star

(228)

3 Star

(139)

2 Star

(69)

1 Star

(57)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 769 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 14, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Magnificent!

    Great atmosphere and entertaining, the story moves without pause and is never boring. Loaded with tension and sense of foreboding, there are several places that were truly hard to read. The story surged forward with unpredictable twists and turns and kept me engrossed right up to the last page. Marina is a research doctor in Minnesota. A teammate, Anders, dies in the jungles of the Amazon. For some reason, her employer and secret lover, Mr. Fox, wants Marina to seek out the truth about Anders' death. She couldn't understand, why her? She has no skills in the area and knows little about the project in the Amazon. She and Anders were working together on a cholesterol drug. After getting together with Anders' grieving wife and sons, Marina feels it her duty to make the journey, even though she will once again meet her stern mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson. Swenson knows things about Marina that Marina wants to forget. Marina Singh's real exploration is her discovery of other people and of herself. This is another excellent Patchett work that will not be able to tear yourself away from.

    39 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 5, 2011

    Best Book I've Read All Year!

    I'm such a sucker for a well-written book that makes me think, and this book was all of that and then some. Read the synopsis and it sounds like a book about doctors and the Amazon and ethics; and it is. But to me, the central theme of the story is about mentors. How is it possible that our mentors and teachers keep us under their spell and eager for their approval for years after we've grown up? Or for years after we've known them for the imperfect humans they really are? Where does that pull come from? In this story, nearly every person has a mentor they are trying to understand or trying to cover for or trying to earn praise from, then I found myself falling under their spells, too. This was a very intriguing book and I recommend it to absolutely anyone who loves to read books several times to find something different each time.

    21 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Couldn't put it down!

    I am truly surprised by the 3 star rating on this book because I couldn't put it down! It really annoyed my family. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much!

    21 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 29, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read

    I loved reading this wonderful book! It has a story that keeps you entertained for hours.

    17 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2011

    One of the worst books I have ever read!

    If it was not a selection for my book club I would never have finished this book. The story is ridiculous, characters are mostly whiny and self-centered and the writing is unexceptional. Do not understand why other readers found the story so exciting. I couldn't wait for it to end. I also find it interesting that Ann Patchett never mentions where she found her information about the Amazon or the tribes that might inhabit it. If you want to read an exciting and incredibly interesting story about the Amazon, read River of Doubt.

    12 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I LOVED IT AND HATED IT

    I fell in love with this book. I love Ann Patchett, Bel Canto was a masterpiece, and so was this book until the very end. I really thought the ending would be totally different and it disappointed me. I actually went back and read the ending twice just to see if I was missing something, but alas, there wasn't. Still a wonderful book and I would recommend it just for atmosphere alone.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 20, 2011

    Highly Recommend

    Who knew a research scientist, the amazon, anaconda's, cannibals and a mysterious "fertility" drug would be that interesting! Read this book over the weekend and I just couldn't put it down. The critics were right when they praised this book.

    11 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2011

    Another great work!

    This book holds up to Ms. Patchett's high standards of acute observation of human nature. She presents ethical and moral dilemmas through the thoughts and actions of her characters. Life is never "black and white" in her stories. This story, as did "Bel Canto", repeatedly raises the question of what is the "right" thing to do. Do circumstances affect what is "right"? There are no easy answers, but we readers are improved by contemplating the questions.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2011

    Awesome book!!!

    Loved this book, my first by this author and it won' t be my last. I felt like I was right there along with Marina in Brazil trying to find Anders!! When she talked about how hot it was and how many bugs there were I truly started to get hot and my skin started to crawl. You will feel like you are part of this story!!!!

    10 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2011

    Please read Time's review in the June 13 edition.

    Time calls it repro madness, Ann Patchett's thriller imagines a utopia of fertility.

    10 out of 68 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2011

    It was just ok Just ok

    If you like slow books,this is the book for you. I was never on the edge of my seat with this read. I honestly fell asleep several times while reading it. This was my first time reading her book and I was pretty much a snooze fest. I will say it was well written but Iam not sure if I would be willing to try a book from her again.

    8 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2011

    It'll do but I hope future books are better

    The story was interesting and thought provoking. I think the ending was rushed ....actually the whole book was rushed. I could have stood more content and character development. Not sorry I read it but it really could have been better.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2011

    Ten+Stars%21%21

    This+is+truly+one+of+those+books+you+read+every+word%21+Hope+that+she+keeps+writing+books+like+these.

    8 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Plod plod plod along

    This was a hard read becaue the story moved so slowly. Nothing feels exciting. Everything that should have had you on the edge of your seat was like, meh. Hated most of the book especially the ending! Ridiculous!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 30, 2011

    I Wonder Why Anyone Liked This Book!

    Hard to give this book even one star. Even the author got bored with this story and rushed to finish it in the last ten pages. Implausible story with an ending that puts the main characters to shame. The positive reviews must have been written by the author's friends and editor. Bought this as an ebook - money and time wasted - can I get a refund?

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    Great book but not my favorite Ann Patchett

    I've read everything she has written so was eager to try this one as soon as I could get it. Well written, original story as I'd expect. I did think some of the storyline could have been more developed, and I finished wishing there had been more of a wrap up. Overall, this book does not disappoint, though there is less danger and intrigue than the reviews I initially read led me to expect.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2012

    WHY!?

    Why was this book on so many of my recommendation lists? it seemed like every where i looked this book came up as one of the best books of the year. I even read some really good reviews. So why I ask. For starters there is nothing about the writing that jumped out at me as beautiful. Then there were the characters themselves who were poorly developed. I couldnt bring myself to like any of them. I will not lie, i did not even finish this book. Maybe it is the ending that makes this story great but ive read two thirds of it and im bored to death! It drags on and on! My advice, get it from the library first before you buy it. Truly a dissapointing book!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2011

    Wanted more

    This was a good book, but I was not satisfied with the ending It didn't seem to follow with what I thouht the characters were like

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    Left hanging

    I struggled with this book, my wife as well! It left me hanging at the end. I would not reccomend it to anyone

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 9, 2011

    Just OK

    The writing was beautiful, but the story didn't really live up to its potential. The ending was a disappointment.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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