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August 7, 2011 / Leslie

Review: State of Wonder

State of Wonder
by Ann Pachett
Read by: Hope Davis

Genre: Literature
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publish Date: June 7, 2011
Format: Audio CD | 12 Hours and 30 min
Rating: 4 of 5

Dr. Marina Singh, a research pharmacologist for the Vogel Pharmaceutical Company, is sent to the Amazon jungle to find out what happened to her colleague, Anders Eckman, who died under mysterious circumstances. The last person to see Anders was Dr. Annik Swenson, a gynecologist who is researching the reproductive fertility of the Lakashi, an Amazon tribe whose women have the ability to conceive into their middle ages.

Marina must find Dr. Swenson, but this will prove to be a challenge as she does not want to be found. Mr. Fox, who sent Marina to the Amazon, is not only her boss at Vogel but also her lover. She feels obligated to do as he asks and also she wants to find out what happened to Anders, who was a good friend, and to help her company as they want an update on the fertility drug that Dr. Swenson is developing.

Marina is a conflicted and passive character and at times appears to not have much common sense. She has a history with Dr. Swenson from her days in medical school and an unfortunate incident, one which haunts her to this day. Dr. Swenson is not a very likeable character and this does set up some tension between them.

I had a little trouble relating to Marina’s agreeing to be sent off to the Amazon with little preparation and no understanding of the jungle. Her lack of experience was immediately evident. Somewhat predictably things go wrong from the start as she loses her luggage not once, but twice, doesn’t know enough to keep her valuables in a carry on bag and also manages to lose her GPS phone. If you can accept that someone like Marina would actually make this trip, it is a wonderful setup for the development of her character and the story about to unfold. In spite of the initial predictability, the story does work.

The author makes the jungle comes alive with her description of the river, insects, reptiles, the Lakashi tribe and the danger and disease of living in the Amazon. As much as I love the outdoors I would never want to be stranded in the jungle. I enjoyed the science aspect of the book but did not find there to be a lot of science detail. If anything the science part was weak. The story focused more on the complex issues of right vs wrong and the ethics of scientific research. There were a few surprises in the end, two of which I suspected and one that I never saw coming.

I listened to the audio version and was very pleased with Hope Davis’ narration. Her stern, callous voiced Dr. Swenson was in stark contrast to Marina’s passive voice. The descriptive nature of the author’s writing made the book easy to listen to.

I will confess, this is my first Ann Patchett book. I know, where have I been! I can’t compare this to her previous work but I can recommend it as an interesting and engaging story. I look forward to reading more of her work.
Source: I received a copy of the audiobook from Harper Audio for review.


Leave a Comment
  1. Mary / Aug 7 2011 6:09 pm

    I’ve read a few of her books and I’ve liked and not liked them but I’ve seen positive reviews of this book everywhere. I’m glad you liked it – especially the audiobook. I may give that a try.


  2. BermudaOnion / Aug 7 2011 7:15 pm

    I think we had similar feelings about this book. I liked it a lot, but didn’t seem to love it as much as most people did.


  3. Suko / Aug 7 2011 10:17 pm

    Very nice review. I have a book by this author which I need to read. I’m glad you enjoyed listening to this one.


  4. Leeswammes / Aug 8 2011 5:35 am

    This was my first book by Pratchett, too. I agree that it seemed a bit odd to send Marina out to the jungle. Once I got used to the idea, it was a great read.


  5. WordsAndPeace / Aug 8 2011 4:26 pm

    I enjoyed very much State of Wonder. I actually read it, but at the same time, I listened to Bel Canto, a great great book by Patchett. here is my combined review:
    Emma @ Words And Peace


  6. J.L. Campbell / Aug 9 2011 8:39 am

    I haven’t read Patchett either, but this is one I’ve heard good things about. I should put it on my wishlist.


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