Wednesday, February 22, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

  • Title: State of Wonder
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction 
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (June 7, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062049801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062049803

The Amazon Rainforest is thought by some to be one of the last vital frontiers for medicinal discoveries. A tribe known as the Lakashi seem to be a modern day miracle. Women in the tribe appear to still be able to bear healthy children well into their seventies. Just think of the potential. Dr. Swenson is in the field attempting to find the variable that allows these women a reproductive fountain of youth and develop a drug to replicate the process. The problem is that Dr. Swenson hasn't been heard from in two years. Dr. Anders Eckman was sent in to find the elusive Dr. Swenson who has never disclosed the Lakashi's whereabouts. After months of attempting to find the elusive doctor and uncover the progress she's made in developing the fertility drug, a letter arrives at Vogel, the pharmaceutical company funding the drug production. Dr. Eckman has died of a fever. Now Dr. Singh, Eckman's colleague, is asked to take up where Dr. Eckman left off . She is sent to find out about the drug's progress, if it even exists, and what happened to her colleague.

I liked aspects of the book, but it seemed to drag at times. The descriptions of the Amazon rain forest were one of the best parts of the book as I imagined journeying right along with Marina into the beautiful, yet deadly jungle. The premise of a fertility fountain of youth was intriguing. If you could prevent menopause I think the health of older women could be increased. They'd be less likely to get Osteoporosis and other related conditions. ***Slight Spoiler***The main problem I had with the whole fertility aspect of the book is it is not  humanly possible for a drug or tree/plant to make a woman who's stopped menstruating be able to do so again. Woman are born with a set number of eggs and once they're gone...well, they're gone. You can't recreate something that's not there. Well, unless you start talking about cloning which this book clearly does not.***End of Spoiler***

While the book centers around the drug and the Lakashi, the main story focuses in on one character--Marina Singh. While she was supposed to make a discovery about the fertility drug's progress, the real discovery, I believe, is about herself. Certain things in her past have haunted her and she's perhaps lost her way. Dr. Swenson, the doctor leading the fertility drug's production is her former teacher. What Marina will learn could potentially change her future. The problem is the story stopped at a place that really doesn't tell us if that is the case. It almost seemed, as Rachel, who read this with me concluded, that Patchett decided she was tired of writing and created a quick ending so she could get on with other things. Many things were left up in the air and I found the ending lacking and unsatisfying. It wasn't wrapped up in a neat and tidy bow, but made you wonder why it ended the way it did. It's like you blinked and in that split second the book ended. I actually checked to see if there was a sequel, but there isn't. I really couldn't see where the sequel would go, but I was curious. 

Overall, I gave this book 2 out of 5 roses. The imagery was delightful, but the characters, with the exception of Milton and Easter, weren't really all that endearing and I didn't connect with any of them. I should state the book did come full circle in that Marina did end up finding out what happened to Dr. Anders Eckman. So while the author may have felt that was a proper stopping point, I guess I just wanted more.

Notes to keep you in the know:
"Women are born with a set number of eggs. Every month, eggs are lost through ovulation and natural egg death. By age 30, women lose 88% of their life supply of eggs and by age 40, egg loss reaches 97%. The chance of a live birth from natural conception on a monthly basis declines from 20% at age 30 to 15% at age 35, 10% at age 40 and only 1-2% at age 45." (The above information was obtained from ) I originally learned about this fact by watching Private Practice, the spin-off of Gray's Anatomy. See, you can learn things from watching TV. :)

There is a passage that said something about the city at one time (probably the seventies) was full of individuals getting wealthy from the rubber industry. I think that is where the nice buildings came from.

Here are some street vendors: Where the other half lives:
Teatros Amazonas(Where Opera was held)in Manaus:

Birds Anders wished to see:
Harpy Eagle:

Guira Cuckoos:

More photos so you feel like you are all going on the journey too:
The muddy water:
The tributaries and river:

The animals:

Photos obtained from photobucket.

1 comment:

  1. Mystery and unanswered questions permeate the story. Answers are needed back at the corporate office and by the wife and children of the missing researcher and Patchett
    skillfully unravels the intrigue and offers a surprising conclusion. I'll not reveal any of it, of course, but I will say that even an incessant reader such as me was pleasantly surprised at the twists and turns the author imagined. I recommend this book and feel confident that you'll enjoy it.

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