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State of Wonder: A Novel | [Ann Patchett]

State of Wonder: A Novel

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Best-selling author Ann Patchett and accomplished actor Hope Davis make a stellar combination for Patchett's latest novel, State of Wonder, an homage to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Davis deftly voices an international cast of medical researchers in the Amazon jungle. Her talents enhance Patchett's artistically descriptive prose, in many cases coiling the jungle imagery closer than you may want.

Hope Davis voices Dr. Marina Singh's stoic professionalism as she, a pharmacologist, is sent to the Amazon jungle by her employer to seek information about the death of a colleague. Only months earlier Dr. Anders Eckman had also been sent by the pharmaceutical company to investigate the secretive research of formidable Dr. Annick Swenson. In a terse, unemotional letter, Dr. Swenson has announced Dr. Eckman to be dead and buried.

Patchett's gift is to give characters multiple, very human layers, and Davis' gift is to bring those creations to life. Dr. Singh's reserve falls apart as she is plagued by unsettling nightmares and vivid memories of past medical mistakes. Dr. Annick Swenson's imperious personality has, through Hope Davis, the ability to intimidate through your earbuds. Dr. Swenson's arrogance keeps everyone quaking until, as the story unfolds, Davis' tone allows hints of humanity to ease through the doctor's sharp-edged exterior. Davis easily moves from dialects as the individual personalities - among them, a West African doctor, an Indonesian researcher, and a self-absorbed Australian couple - flow one from the other. Davis gives a brilliant performance of a prickly, uncomfortable argument between the married couple Alan and Nancy Saturn, making all who are listening want to distract themselves with the scenery.

Terrain itself becomes if not a character, a force, in State of Wonder. Contrasting Dr. Singh's beloved Minnesota plains with the claustrophobic, crawling, itching, frighteningly enveloping jungle, Patchett's words offer Hope Davis another opportunity to shine artistically. Davis infuses Patchett's prose with palpable energy, allowing listeners to exult in the wide, open prairies of the Midwest and then sense the creeping terror of forbidding, dangerously alive Amazonian jungle. While Davis' depiction of a confrontation with an anaconda is not to be missed, be forewarned that Patchett's imagery and Davis' performance will put anyone listening right beside the panic-stricken fictional characters as a life-and-death battle ensues.

For fans of Ann Patchett, State of Wonder is all that one has been waiting for and more. The story has as many twists and turns as, well, the Amazon jungle itself. And Hope Davis takes the joy of a new Ann Patchett book to an even higher level of pleasure through her masterful performance. It is a fantastically compelling adventure trip without the hazards of incessant bug bites, poisonous critters, or sweltering heat. —Carole Chouinard

Publisher's 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.

©2011 Ann Patchett (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers

What the Critics Say

“An expansive page-turner . . . Patchett’s fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure . . . that readers will hate to see end.” (Publishers Weekly starred review)

“An engaging, consummately told tale.” (New York Times)

“A superbly rendered novel. . . . Patchett’s portrayal is as wonderful as it is frightening and foreign. Patchett exhibits an extraordinary ability to bring the horrors and the wonders of the Amazon jungle to life, and her singular characters are wonderfully drawn. . . . Powerful and captivating.” (Library Journal, starred review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Anita Riegelsville, PA, United States 06-01-12
    Anita Riegelsville, PA, United States 06-01-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Aww, Really?"

    I was flowing along, listening to the story, the jungle, the "mission". The narration was fine. The set up looked promising... Slow, but promising. Then, well, somebody might have snacked on the mushrooms! This just got silly I tried to stay connected with the story and the author. Searching for the "Wonder", I found not much more than: "Huh"?
    I don't regret listening to this. I do wish I had that credit back though.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Bellingham, WA, United States 01-20-12
    Laurie Bellingham, WA, United States 01-20-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Don't bother"

    As a literature teacher and voracious reader, I was excited to listen to a book with so many wonderful reviews. A quarter through the book, I was still waiting for the brilliance. It takes forever to get to what I thought was the plot. I patiently continued, still waiting, ending with little satisfaction. While this book is very well read, the plot is so thin and ultimately ridiculously unrealistic, it completely lost me. If you like science/medical-related plots, don't bother - it lacks any kind of reality. I'm still questioning all the accolades of this book, the wonderful reviews, the placement on 'best of' lists - I find it baffling. As a fairly eclectic reader, I can find some value in most books - not this one. Don't waste your money or your credit.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda East Northport, NY, United States 07-30-11
    Linda East Northport, NY, United States 07-30-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Fairly boring"

    Narration was too slow, I had to speed up the i-pod. Could've done without all the dream remembrances. Way too long for not much content. I would not recommend this.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy San Rafael, CA, United States 07-06-11
    Wendy San Rafael, CA, United States 07-06-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "wonderful premise...lost the magic"

    The main character is supposed to be a highly intelligent MD/PhD but she seems really unintelligent and uninteresting Patchett's dialogue. Her character doesn't seem to evolve truly. It was a flat experience for me and the characters became sort of parodies and predictable by the end. I'm not sure I've enjoyed an Ann Patchett since Bel Canto.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 07-21-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 07-21-11 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3381
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    "Not bad not great"

    This book has received a great deal of attention and praise. Perhaps I missed something. That sometimes happens when I listen to a book while doing something else even something as mindless such as riding around in circles on my tractor. But I'm writing this review after just having finished a trilogy by Brandon Sanderson that just blew my socks off and this cannot compare even closely. The story itself was just okay but "listening" to it sometimes seemed confusing with regard to person. It seemed like the protagonist was telling the story (1st person) but then the reader shifted to (she said) 3rd person. Maybe it was just me but that seemed a distraction and the story was just not that fascinating or even interesting or original.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Groton, CT, United States 07-01-11
    Carol Groton, CT, United States 07-01-11 Member Since 2011

    Carol Deming Casey

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    "Superb!"

    Ann Patchett writes lyrically in all of her descriptions, the eloquence in which she uses the written word to bring to life this memersizing story is beyond reproach. This is the first works of Ms. Patchell I have encountered and it has created a hunger in me for more. Absolutely worth the time to drive into this wonderful piece of work.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 08-03-11
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 08-03-11 Member Since 2005

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What is the bzz about?"

    This is the second time I have purchased an ann patchett book based on the awesome recommendations and been disappointed. Both this book and BelCanto disappointed me. Perhaps I just dont like her writing style, the plot was beyond ridiculous and her books seem to all just end bluntly without a well crafted ending. The character development was good. I think she is completely overrated. The only thing I liked was the reader which made it bearable!

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Clearlake, CA, United States 06-11-12
    Stephanie Clearlake, CA, United States 06-11-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointed"

    I am surprised to see all the glowing reviews about this book. I found it slow and tedious. I have enjoyed other books by this author and I really wanted to like this book. As hour after hour of it went by, I found I really just wanted it to end so I could start something new.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CherylY Ashland, Oregon 05-25-12
    CherylY Ashland, Oregon 05-25-12 Member Since 2012

    Beach, Palm Tree, Good Book

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "State of Disbelief ?"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I have some complaints but I did kind of enjoy the book. I have to ask, who's bright idea was it to have Marina take Larium ? Well, of course she had nightmares. Malarone would have been the logical choice since she wasn't planning on staying in the jungle all that long and there are no psychotic side effects. If Big Pharma could fling money at the Jungle Project all that time, surely they could have treated her to the high-priced drug. And, what's all that nonsense with the insipid Mr. Fox? Marina is a hottie - what was she doing with him? And Dr. (Kurtz) Swenson? I know Mr. Kurtz. I read Heart of Darkness, and Dr. Swenson, you are no Mr. Kurtz. Or was that satire? I'm confused.The best thing about this book was the vivid rendering of the jungle. I really did like that. Okay, and I liked the little kid. And, there was the satire - at least I'd like to believe that. In fact I'd like to believe that the whole book was satire. Maybe I should listen again with that in mind - except I didn't like the narration. Once they got to the Jungle, they all sounded like Dr. Swenson.


    What didn’t you like about Hope Davis’s performance?

    Most of the characters sounded alike.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    I might, just for the jungle scenery.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved Bel Canto.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Perham, MN, United States 12-30-11
    Michelle Perham, MN, United States 12-30-11 Member Since 2010
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    "State of Wonder as to why book is so highly rated."

    To be quite frank.... the story was borderline ridiculous and boring. So happy to have finally finished it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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