Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was another out of the park winner from the New York Times Bestseller list, my first read (listen) from author Ann Patchett, but likely not my last!

The Publishers' Summary:

Ann Patchett raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.
Research scientist Dr. Marina Singh is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have disappeared in the Amazon while working on an extremely valuable new drug. The last person who was sent to find her died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding answers to the questions about her friend's death, her company's future, and her own past.
Once found, Dr. Swenson is as imperious and uncompromising as ever. 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.
State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the listener into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.

The premise pretty much had me hooked from the get-go, though it's hard to put my finger on what exactly it was in the publishers' summary that enticed me to spend the audible credit.

I loved the characters in State of Wonder - the uniqueness of each, the strength of boy Dr. Swensen and of Marina Singh - the fallibility of Mr. Fox, the broken-hearted widow. Each were so genuine and plausible. Not once did I doubt the sincerity of any of the characters - while I was listening to the novel they existed. I started this novel on Sunday afternoon after finishing Watership Down, I finished this novel early Thursday morning - twelve and a half hours of audiobook in four days time with only chores and my daily commute for listening time - I just wasn't able to put State of Wonder down.

Actress Hope Davis' narration was superb. She became Marina Singh - bright, honest, frank - a little naive - and utterly human. When reading or listening this type of novel there's always the willing suspension of disbelief - Ms. Davis' narration added brilliantly to an already superb story.

I'm not sure where on my 2011 top ten I'd put State of Wonder - but it's certainly on there (With Sarah Jio's Violets of March, Sarah Addison Allen's The Peach Keeper, Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches, Jennifer Weiner's Then Came You, Tina Fey's Bossypants, etc) ...

State of Wonder: A Novel was written by Ann Patchett, narrated by Hope Davis and published by Harper Audio. State of Wonder: A Novel was released on June 6th, 2011 and has a runtime of 12 hours 25 minutes.

A side note (why it's worth mentioning in a second) when I stumble upon a great book like State of Wonder, Violets of March, etc in audiobook format,  I generally pickup a hard copy at Costco (if they have it) as well. My intention isn't to read it again for myself, but to gift the book to someone who I think  will enjoy the novel as much as I did, always with the instructions that they re-gift it when they finish, etc. Its funny to hear about the books getting passed along. Lots of "I loved it and I thought that 'Suzy' would love it too and she did!" Hopefully 'Suzy' chooses to pass it along too :-) The funny thing happened recently when one of the copies of Sarah Jio's Violets of March that I gifted a few weeks ago actually came back to me in a weird twist of fate having been read by half a dozen people in-between the original gift and when it was re-gifted to me. Book karma :-)

Another side note, I recently won (by lottery with an entry for buying a copy of Violets of March from Target - which was sent it to my mother in VA) a signed copy of Violets of March and a preview/pre-release copy of Sarah Jio's newest novel Bungalow (release date sometime in December). I'm so excited! Sorry gang, I'm going to keep my hot little paws on those two though! :-)

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