Patchett plots the action as if it were an elaborate mosaic with each piece precisely scribed to fit its neighbor. Marina arrives in the decaying city of Manaus, Brazil where she spends weeks trying to ingratiate herself with a slapstick cast including Milton, a major domo figure, who seems to have the entire country at his beck and call and the Bovanders, a fey couple who hold the key to locating Dr. Swenson.
When Marina finally begins her river journey, Easter, a deaf boy Dr. Swenson has rescued, pilots them literally and figuratively into the ever narrowing darkness of the Amazon. They arrive to find the Lakashi tribe carrying torches and ululating in welcome while Marina’s luggage and more importantly her malaria medicine and global phone go missing. Forced to dress as the tribal women and lacking any contact with the world, Marina quickly assimilates into the tribal village Dr. Swenson rules.
In a pivotal scene rivaling the best Indiana Jones movie, Marina, Easter, another native and a giant anaconda battle aboard a small pontoon boat. I hate snakes and have refused to read some fine books because of their presence but I was glued to the page during this mesmerizing skirmish. Soon after, Marina visits the area where the Lakashi women chew the bark of trees that allows them infinite fertility and protection from other diseases and she later performs a chilling operation that makes her seem indispensible to the village.
Meanwhile Marina forms a bond with Easter and begins to question the imperturbably caustic Dr. Swenson.. A raft of adventures awaits and builds to an unexpected yet thoroughly believable climax. The book has a perfect ending that brings the entire tale full circle and makes me want to read this adventure again to savor the intricate language and plotting. I flew through it completely captivated by the cast and sat in wonder as I contemplated whether Marina would ever be able to click her heels and return to Minnesota.
Summing it Up: State of Wonder is a wonder that will transport you to a grown-up “Land of Oz” where native dancers, miracle drugs, incredible dreams, and a jungle so thick and hot it makes you want to shower await you. You’ll beg your book club to abandon their next selection so you can discuss it. If I could I’d adopt Easter, a character I’ll carry with me forever. I adored Patchett’s Bel Canto but this may just top it.
Rating: 5 stars
Category: Fiction, Gourmet, Book Club
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Author website: http://www.annpatchett.com/
Reading Group Guide: http://www.harpercollins.com/author/authorExtra.aspx?authorID=20650&isbn13=9780062049803&displayType=readingGuide
Interview with Diane Rehm: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-06-08/ann-patchett-state-wonder
What Others are Saying:
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/state-of-wonder-by-ann-patchett-2293017.html
Kirkus Reviews: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/fiction/ann-patchett/state-wonder/#review
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/books/state-of-wonder-by-ann-patchett-book-review.html
Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-204980-3