Lots of people have raved about Ann Patchett's books. This is another case of my hearing so much about an author's work that I feel like I have read more of her books than I have. This is both good and bad. It means that I have missed out on an amazing author, but it also means that I have lots of great books that I can discover. Several years ago I read Patchett's non-fiction book Truth and Beauty which I loved and Run, which I enjoyed but did not love. As I cracked this book open I realized these were the only two books I have ever read by Patchett.
State of Wonder is perhaps not a book I would think of myself reading or raving about. Yet I loved it.
The premise of this book is an unusual one. Marina works for a company that is developing new drugs. When her co-worker dies in Brazil while he was traveling for work -going to find a scientist employed by his company who had been avoiding reporting her progress- Marina is sent to discover what really happened to Anders. The scientist in Brazil was someone Marina had studied under while in school, and she continues to be as elusive now as she was in the memories Marina shares of her. Life in Brazil - both the city of Manaus and the jungle - is interesting and Patchett writes in a way that made these places so real. Although Marina continues to search for answers, she finds herself being sucked in to Dr. Swenson's research and the two week trip she had planned stretches out longer and longer. Eventually the secrets around Anders' death are revealed as is the research Swenson has long been guarding.
My synopsis is brief, but there is much more to this wonderful novel: the lush jungle setting, interesting characters ranging from Mr. Fox, the owner of the drug company, to the young couple who are connected to Dr. Swenson and befriend Marina, and the Lakishi tribe. Marina must also face her own regret, having changed her career pursuit after a tragic accident while under Dr. Swenson's tutelage.
Although I began State of Wonder with some trepidation, wondering if I would enjoy this story, I was sucked in almost immediately, finding every page beautifully written.