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Review: State of Wonder

July 10, 2011

Anders Eckman has been sent to the Amazon to check up on Vogel’s (a pharmaceutical company) star researcher, Dr. Annick Swenson.  Several weeks later, Vogel receives a letter from Dr. Swenson informing them that Eckman died from a fever and has been buried in the jungle.  Dr. Marina Singh is sent down to try to get some answers and finds more than she bargained for.

I picked up State of Wonder by Ann Patchett after a friend of mine said she couldn’t put it down and almost read it in one sitting, and while I liked it alright, I can’t say that I loved it the way she did.  The book started out with a bang for me, but dragged in the middle.  As much as I enjoyed reading about the Amazonian jungle, I thought it got bogged down with too much detail at times.  Things picked up toward the end of the book, but I felt let down by the ending – it just seemed a little too contrived for me.

The book does have a lot to offer, though.  It’s got some wonderful characters – my favorites are probably Marina and Easter, a young boy she encounters in the jungle.  Marina has so much, yet struggles in her life because of something from the past that haunts her and she’s forced to deal with it.  I think a lot of people can relate to Marina and her insecurities.  She’s also loyal and loving and she seemed like the type of person I would want on my side.  Easter is smart as a whip and has problems of his own.

This was my first experience with Patchett’s work and I appreciated the beauty of her writing.  It is lush and descriptive and made me feel like I was in the jungle.  I can see why Patchett has so many fans out there and I do hope to read more of her work.

I think State of Wonder would make a good book club book – it gave me a lot to think about, so I think there’s a lot of potential for discussion.  I know there were things I wanted to discuss as I turned the last page.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins. I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
48 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2011 5:27 am

    I love Ann Patchett’s books, and I can’t wait to read her latest work. I am glad to hear that her writing is as beautiful and the characters as wonderful, like her previous books.

  2. July 10, 2011 7:02 am

    I’m kind of in the middle where AP’s books are concerned. I’ve enjoyed a couple and some, not so much. It does sound like a good one for a book club.

  3. July 10, 2011 7:30 am

    It sounds like one of those fiction books I could enjoy 🙂 I do want something special in my fiction

  4. July 10, 2011 7:56 am

    I kind of love lots of scientific/historical detail, so I think it might be a winner for me. Thanks for your review!

  5. July 10, 2011 8:20 am

    I have heard SO MUCH about Bel Canto, and now this one. Jen from Devourer of Books did say that the audio version pulled her through the slow parts, so maybe this will be the way to go for me. I feel left out…everybody is talking about this one!

  6. July 10, 2011 8:51 am

    It seems like every review I read, of this, is vastly different from the next. It sounds like such an interesting premise; I guess it just holds so many different things for different people. Interesting. I’ve never read any Patchett, but I keep meaning to.

  7. July 10, 2011 9:01 am

    I read a review, or heard something about this book, yesterday and thought I should read it. I’m still on the fence though which is odd since this sounds like a book I would enjoy.

  8. July 10, 2011 9:40 am

    I agree completelynabout that ending! This was my first Patchett too. I’m looking forward to Bel Canto.

  9. July 10, 2011 11:29 am

    Thanks for the honest review Kathy. I’ve been seeing this book all over the place so it has piqued my curiousity. I read Bel Canto by Patchett and although I enjoyed it I think many of the gals in my book group did not.

  10. July 10, 2011 11:37 am

    This is the first I’ve heard of Patchett. I know my friend Anna would love this book since she’s just come back from the Amazon experience. Will forward the info.

    Thanks for the insight Kathy 🙂

  11. July 10, 2011 12:11 pm

    I have really been wanting to read this one since seeing all the major play that it’s gotten all over the blogs. I did really enjoy Bel Canto a few years ago, and despite the fact that I have heard from others that the ending feels sort of contrived, this is one that I feel I must read. I am going to be purchasing it this afternoon, I think, because I just can’t wait anymore! Great review on this on, Kathy!

  12. July 10, 2011 12:13 pm

    I really like how fair you are in your reviews. I have yet to read one of her books and may pick this one up later in life! 😀

  13. July 10, 2011 12:22 pm

    I agree that it definitely would make a good book club book. I wanted to discuss it with someone right after I finished too. I still need to get around to reading Bel Canto.

  14. July 10, 2011 1:53 pm

    I have a signed copy of this one that I got through the Indiespensable program at Powell’s. I’m excited to read it but also prepared after reading your review, for the slow parts.

  15. Veens permalink
    July 10, 2011 2:23 pm

    I havn’t been able to read Ann Patchett book till now. I am not sure I want to start with this one though.

  16. July 10, 2011 3:14 pm

    Her work always gets tons of notice…but I have not read any of her books yet…this one does sound good though…and it is always fun to read a book by a different author.

  17. July 10, 2011 4:26 pm

    This was my first Patchette’s work. I liked it better than I thought I would (not my genre) though I was very disappointed with the ending. If you’re interested, here’s my review:

  18. July 10, 2011 4:48 pm

    Glad you liked this. I had the same issue with the ending. I hope you also check out her Bel Canto!

  19. July 10, 2011 5:35 pm

    I enjoyed and appreciate your review, Kathy. I thought the book sounded, in a few articles I read, as if it went into a lot of detail about the jungle, maybe a little over-done in parts but so many reviews just raved about it. It’s good to get a genuine opinion! I like Patchett’s writing very much and will probably read this book at some point but It’s nice to be prepared :o)

  20. July 10, 2011 5:41 pm

    One of these days I have to at least give Ann Patchett a try. I haven’t read anything by her yet!

  21. July 10, 2011 6:56 pm

    I only read one book of her’s,Bel Canto, which Iliked a great deal, but not sure I want that much of the Amazon.

  22. July 10, 2011 7:09 pm

    I love books that leave me wanting to discuss it with others. I think I need to give State of Wonder a try.

  23. July 10, 2011 7:12 pm

    I have seen this one around in the bookstore. I was tempted to purchase it, but I didn’t. Maybe I will get it eventually.

    Here is mine

  24. July 10, 2011 7:12 pm

    Sorry that you did not truly love it. I have wanted to read this for a while. I am always interested in well researched novels. In the science or history department. So, this one drew me. Hope to get it soon.

  25. July 10, 2011 8:01 pm

    Definitely with you on the middle draggyness!

  26. July 10, 2011 8:27 pm

    Thanks for the book club tip Kathy. I am always trying to think of new reads for my book group.

  27. July 10, 2011 9:17 pm

    I haven’t read this book. I liked the sound of the story, but it might not be for me given I didn’t like Run.

  28. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 10, 2011 11:07 pm

    I just received this one from a giveaway. I liked Bel Canto, but thought it dragged a bit in the middle too.

  29. July 10, 2011 11:42 pm

    I loved this one despite the way I personaly felt about Marina outside the confines of the story. I have so many hopes for her. Thanks for the review.

  30. July 11, 2011 12:13 am

    So glad you liked this one. I have only read one of Patchett’s books but agree that this one sounds fab.

  31. July 11, 2011 12:27 am

    This has been on my TBR for a while now! sounds good.

  32. July 11, 2011 3:06 am

    I started listening to the audiobook this weekend. This is also my first experience with Patchett and I agree, the writing is wonderful.

  33. July 11, 2011 7:08 am

    Patchett is a favorite author — I need to get to my copy of this one. Nice review Kathy

  34. July 11, 2011 9:50 am

    I’m not so sure about this one, because I read Bel Canto not too long ago and wasn’t thrilled.

  35. July 11, 2011 12:28 pm

    It’s a new one for me, thanks! for your review.

  36. July 11, 2011 1:02 pm

    I’ve read a few of Patchett’s books and some I’ve really liked and others have been just ok. I’m not sure if this is one of hers I’d really like so I haven’t picked it up.

  37. July 11, 2011 1:18 pm

    I am interested in this book, but I think the details of the jungle might make it drag too.

  38. redladysreadingroom permalink
    July 11, 2011 4:09 pm

    I have a review copy of this book and I am going to read it. I tried reading Bel Canto several times but couldn’t get through it. I did like Truth & Beauty and Run.

  39. July 11, 2011 5:10 pm

    I’m glad you read it and liked it. It was my first Patchett, too 🙂 I’m definitely up for reading more of her work. As far as State of Wonder, the only real problem I had was the ending – it just didn’t seem to flow with the rest of the story. I just found it too unrealistic to accept. Overall though, I found the book to be so good because of how easily it transports you to the Amazon jungle – Patchett brings you into the scenewith her vivid descriptions and I loved that! Great post!!

  40. July 11, 2011 8:52 pm

    I had some issues part way through but I still thought it was a pretty amazing piece of literature. She’s a fantastic writer.

  41. July 11, 2011 9:19 pm

    I too have heard a lot of really great things about Patchett. I just bought one of her other works — Truth and Beauty — and I am really looking forward to delving in.

  42. July 12, 2011 8:44 am

    I’ve been hit and miss with Patchett’s work but I’m looking forward to trying this one. I do know one thing: she’s hard to nail down. Never know exactly what she’ll write about next.

  43. July 12, 2011 12:37 pm

    I’ve never read a Patchett novel either. Her name has been on my list but I’m not sure which book to read. I don’t think it will be this one.

  44. July 12, 2011 2:12 pm

    I read Run and didn’t care for it. I tried Bel Canto and couldn’t get into it. I guess this one is not for me either.

  45. July 12, 2011 9:13 pm

    I haven’t yet picked up a copy of STATE OF WONDER. I *loved* BEL CANTO, and found the bar was very high with it … I may be a little afraid to SoW (that it won’t reach those heights for me).

  46. July 13, 2011 8:13 am

    I loved the detail–it made the world come alive, for me. Too alive! As I said in my review, I wasn’t a big fan of Bel Canto, but really think her writing and her ability to weave good characters into an interesting plot all came together in this novel.

  47. July 14, 2011 4:23 pm

    My book club read Bel Canto and loved it. State of Wonder is next on my books to read. From all the mixed reviews I don’t quite know what to expect but I’m looking forward to digging into it.

  48. July 16, 2011 9:55 am

    I definitely need to read this book, although after reading Snakewoman of Little Egypt, the idea of getting too much information gives me pause. I might put more space between the two.

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