Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Living

February 7, 2012

The Book Shelf: ‘State of Wonder’: Complicated but intriguing

JACKSONVILLE — State of Wonder

By Ann Patchett

This is a beautifully written book with a complicated yet intriguing plot line.

A reclusive female scientist refuses to communicate the status of her research with the pharmaceutical company that has funded her.  She goes so far as to hire people to misdirect anyone who attempts to locate her or her research site in the Amazon jungle.

A fellow scientist is dispatched by the parent company to demand an update on the progress of the research, but nothing is forthcoming until a report is received that the man has died of a fever.  No details are provided.

His wife refuses to accept his death and demands someone be sent to clarify the circumstances.  Another scientist is dispatched at her insistence, a woman who had worked under the research scientist when in graduate school..  

Therein lies the rest of the tale.  The Amazonian jungle, its habitat, its dangers, its secrets, at first bring our city bred heroine to her knees.  An unwelcome guest at the jungle research center, she is barely tolerated by the staff and the native population.

Eventually gaining acceptance in all quarters, she comes to understand her mentorís reluctance to share her findings and the contradictions between science and ethics.  To quote the book jacket:

“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.”

This book is not an easy nor a quick read, but it is definitely worth the effort.  Anne Patchett is a new talent to me, although she has written several books.  Iíll definitely be searching the stacks for them.

A word of warning:  donít get lazy toward the end and start scanning. Youíll miss the punch of the surprise ending.

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