Friday, November 18, 2011

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett

2011, 373 pages
Marina Singh, a scientist in a pharmacological company, is sent from the comfort of her lab in Minnesota to the Amazonas rainforest to check on a revolutionary research done by an eccentric scientist, Annick Swenson, who refuses to give any timetable or progress report. The last person sent to this mission, Marina’s lab partner, died of fever in the research camp, and Marina has another mission: to find out what exactly had happened to him – Dr. Swenson did not waste her time giving too many details – and gather his belongings for his family.
The book is beautifully written and covers so many subjects, handling of all of them in a very touching way: growing up as a child of a mixed marriage of an American woman and a doctorate student from an exotic country, never really belonging to any place; a demanding career and the toll on relationship, and different kind of relationship, for example with vast age differences; career choices, made by traumatic events and their outcomes; relationship with admired but strict and eccentric teachers; the overwhelming transition from cool north US to the hot humid and insect infested tropical environment; moral issues when developing a revolutionary drug and the use of local population for the research on one hand and protecting them on the other, and many more. All of these are fascinating, and as I said treated well, but these are too many areas to be dealt with in a not-so-long book, and I felt that though I was very interested in the book, it didn’t capture me until way into the book, about three quarters of it. Then there was some focus in the plot and I was completely captivated and could not let the book down. I wish the focus would be achieved earlier in the book to make the whole reading experience as fascinating as the end. But in any case, the book is very interesting, well written, and raises a lot of points to think about. I recommend it, but be ready for a relatively slow plot for most of the book.