State of Wonder by Ann Patchet

Ann Patchett has dazzled readers with her award-winning books, including The Magician's Assistant and the New York Times bestselling Bel Canto. Now she raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations.

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.

Join or login to comment.

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry I missed the Meet-up. I read the book but found I was never quite engaged. I don't think this will be one of my favorite writers.

    I also really enjoyed the article and pictures on the Ashaninka tribe. Fascinating photos and one would mistakenly believe looking at all the lush trees that all was well in paradise. This was quite a sobering dissertation on the real problems they face. Most surprising is how much more modern their thinking is than presented in the book although the book did a wonderful job of placing the reader in that environment.

    January 30, 2013

  • Thomas C.

    I enjoyed this book. I have to admit as others have that there are some unrealistic situations throughout the novel; but overall I enjoyed it!

    January 30, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    For me, it missed on almost all points ... character development, a believable scenario, the quality of most of the writing, the ending, etc. The thing it did beautifully was bring the Amazon basin to life. Her description of the lush and fearsome jungle (and the reactions of the people as they entered or lived in it) was almost always brilliant.

    January 29, 2013

  • Teresa E.

    I just listened to an interview with Patchett on KQED's Forum that's pretty interesting.

    January 28, 2013

  • Beverly

    Dear Amy, Thank you so much for sending the article on the Ashaninka, along with the gorgeous pictures of beautiful people in their breathtaking land. Ann Patchett did her homework in writing State of Wonder. Thanks again. Beverly Kalinin

    January 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    While I was reading about the book, I came across this photo essay about an indigenous group in Brazil and Peru, the Ashaninka. The vivid pictures make me think of Patchett's descriptions of the Amazonian jungle and the lives of the (fictional) Lakashi.

    January 24, 2013

  • Jonne

    Now that I have retired, I am looking forward to being able to rejoin this group. This is one of those novels that I would love to read again.

    October 6, 2012

21 went

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Create a Meetup Group and meet new people

Get started Learn more

I decided to start Reno Motorcycle Riders Group because I wanted to be part of a group of people who enjoyed my passion... I was excited and nervous. Our group has grown by leaps and bounds. I never thought it would be this big.

Henry, started Reno Motorcycle Riders

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy