Book Review: State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I've been a fan of Patchett's since her absolutely amazing novel of 2005, Bel Canto, as well as her memoir Truth & Beauty, and though I've read her other novels, they didn't stick with me as long as Bel Canto has.

In any case, I was eager to read her latest, State of Wonder, which also takes place primarily in South America and which early promotions had said would deliver on mystery and miracles.

In a nutshell, I was disappointed.

It certainly didn't feel miraculous to me.

Perhaps my standards were too high, or my understanding of the novel too trite, but this didn't live up to the hype for me. Dr. Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical research fellow, is sent to the Amazon jungle at the behest of her boss/lover to find out exactly what happened to another colleague who went to check on research progress and died, and to find out exactly how the research of Dr. Annick Swenson was progressing regarding new fertility drugs found deep in the jungle.

On the positive side, Patchett's writing is lovely, and once we hit the jungle, her words are very evocative, and you truly believe that you are there amongst the heat and bugs and trees, so vivid are her descriptions.

On the negative side, though, it took us AGES to *get* to the jungle, the first two thirds of the book meandering along with no real sense of urgency, and when we do finally meet the elusive Dr. Swenson, she's a one-dimensional, undeveloped character - indeed, as all the characters in the novel seem to be. Marina has a lot of emotional and relationship issues, but I felt they weren't fully explored nor resolved, and the last 20 pages of the book or so were so rushed to tie things up in a bow, I feel as though I missed something - it just...ended. There had to be a lot of suspension of disbelief in this novel, and I guess I wasn't joining into that as I read along.

I guess overall I just felt a total lack of engagement from this book - like I was waiting for something to happen or twist or emotionally capture me, and it just...didn't. I'm still a fan of Patchett's prose, and I'm glad I read this latest (if only for my own edification), but it simply didn't resonate with me. At all.

Have you read it? What did you think? Am I just being really harsh? Was it the "wrong book for the wrong time", as sometimes happens?

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