State of Wonder is an epic journey into the remote Amazon jungle filled with mystery, deception, and peril. Ann Patchett, award-winning author of Bel Canto writes beautifully and her descriptions of the jungle transport the reader right into exotic and terrifying Brazil.
Marina Singh is a 42-year old medical researcher working for a Vogel Pharmaceutical in Minnesota. Vogel is on the verge of releasing a revolutionary drug that extends a woman's fertility into old age. The drug is being researched and developed by recluse, Dr. Annick Swenson, in the far reaches of the Brazilian jungle. Swenson lives among the Lakashi tribe where she studies them eating the bark of an indigenous tree and astonishingly are able to get pregnant well into old age. The book opens with Marina receiving the devestating news from Dr. Swenson that her colleague, Anders Eckman has died of a fever. Eckman had been sent by Vogel to monitor the drug development and to urge Dr. Swenson to ready the drug for release. Abruptly, Marina is sent to Brazil to find out what happened to Eckman and to bring the drug to market. At the same time, Eckman's wife believes that her husband is not dead and persuades Marina to find out what happened to him. Marina then begins her strange odyssey into the Amazon jungle and is faced with insects, snakes, and much more. The New York Times Sunday Book Review writes, " It’s a task straight out of classical mythology: bring back the head of the Gorgon, the Golden Fleece, or, in Marina’s case, the potion conferring everlasting fertility and the dead husband’s watch. As in the myths, she must be ready to outwit tyrants, behead monsters, charm cannibal tribes"
The pacing and descriptive prose make the reader feel like you are living in the jungle and practically swatting away the insects yourself. This book would be a great book for a book discussion as it brings up issues such ethics of science, personal discovery and redemption. The writing is rich and vivid and engages the reader on every page.