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Thewanderingjew

Thewanderingjew

State of Wonder

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett The novel essentially begins in a research lab of Vogel, a pharmaceutical company, in Minnesota. A scientist, Dr. Anders Eckman, has been sent to the Amazon to find another scientist, Dr. Annika Swenson, who is considered a loose cannon since she has stopped communicating with the firm that employs her and pays for her research. She is supposedly working on a drug which will ensure fertility in women long after their body has started to age, to any age, as a matter of fact, by studying the women of the Lakashi tribe because those women are endlessly fertile and bear children for decades. Upon hearing of the death of Dr. Eckman, The Ceo, Mr. Fox, sends another research scientist to find out the details of his death. As Dr. Marina Singh travels to Manaus, Brazil, and the Amazon, the story evolves.
There were times when I had to suspend disbelief because the plot did not seem credible. The wife of Dr. Eckman, Karen, does not believe her husband is really dead. Marina sets out to find out where he has been buried, to recover his personal effects and to find out how far the research of Dr. Swenson has progressed. It did not ring true that a random scientist would be sent into the Amazon without the proper training and preparation to do a job that professional detectives would be better suited. She is woefully unprepared for the task she has accepted. She seems very naïve and unsophisticated for a highly educated doctor and scientist and I felt that she acclimated to very unusual, frightening situations too easily and without normal trepidation. However, the writing style was so engaging and the characters so well developed that I became invested in their plight and found it hard to put it down.
As an aside, another aspect of the story which gave me pause was the description of Minnesota. It was described a bit too idyllically when the main character "waxes poetic" for her home. Having lived there, I know that it is not a Garden of Eden. It is described by natives as having four seasons, winter, winter, winter and road repair and the state bird is the mosquito! It is a great place to live, but climate is not one of its strong points and in my memory, I don’t think of it as verdant and pastoral, rather I think of the people as being very special.
Now, back to the book, the author creates interest from the beginning and keeps you wanting to keep turning pages to discover how the story will resolve itself. I must admit I had many suspicions about the way the book would turn out but the actual ending was a total surprise. It is a mystery filled with excitement, adventure, danger, fantasy and several ethical dilemmas. The hypocrisy that sometimes exists in the world of science is exposed. The research aspect raises many questions that would create lively discussions.
Although well written, it was not my cup of "science fiction" since I prefer my dose of it to be in the realm of the possible. The many twists and turns of the plot strayed completely from that road, (i.e. a lone woman venturing out into the Amazon to rescue a co-worker from a cannibal tribe in a location she just happens to find), however, the book does raise an important question: Does the means ever justify the ends?