State of Wonder a Guest Review by Lilla Friend
There are a few books that I consider “favorites of 2011” and “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett is undoubtely one of the best. Marina Singh is a pharmacologist working for a major pharmaceutical company when her colleague, Anders Eckman, dies under mysterious circumstances in the Amazon. She is sent to investigate his death, but more importantly to determine the progress of an important research project which is why Anders was sent there in the first place.
The research project concerns the preservation of fertility – a guaranteed money-maker for the company. Imagine being able to postpone having children indefinitely, to never having menopause, to be able to restore fertility in a woman thought to be unable to have children. The possibilities are endless. But the timeline isn’t. Yes, the death of Anders Eckman is important, but the research project is paramount. The project is under the leadership of an ex-professor of Marina’s, an eccentric gynaecology professor called Annick Swenson, a charismatic and mysterious, yet utterly brilliant mind.
The novel centers around Marina’s travel to Manaus and then into the heart of the Amazon. It is beautifully written and utterly hypnotic. Patchett draws the reader into a world of green jungle, a primitive tribe and into a state of wonder. But always she reminds us of the harsh reality – tropical illnesses, multiple insect bites, humidity, a river inhabited by danger and a total lack of even basic medical care.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book was the description of the Lariam side-effects as experienced by Marina. Since it is a weekly dose, patients often want Lariam as Malaria prophylaxis instead of Malarone (very expensive) or doxycycline (daily dose for a few weeks), but the side-effects are horrible. These include nightmares, suicidal thoughts, major depression and acute psychosis. I was highly impressed with the depth of research that the author did for this brilliant work of fiction. It was one of those books where you can’t wait to find out what happens next, but you don’t want it to end either. It can also be compared to a delicious meal where every bite has to be savored – you cannot skip a single word for fear of missing something.
I adored “State of Wonder” and all my Kindle owning friends were told to buy it as soon as possible. I have since (of course) bought all of Ann Patchett’s other novels as well.
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