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
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
“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)
This story had a nice build up and a compelling setting. But I was not compelled by the story or the voice. The voicing was relatively monotonous, a sort of airy voice that sought after wonder, but ended up just sounded bored. The setting and action of the story had so much potential, like the Amazon itself. Brimming with possibilities that I felt were just stopped short of anything worthwhile. The ending felt stopped short, there was hardly resolution. The climatic scene was dramatic and surprising, but again stopped short before I felt a state of wonder.
Overall I feel the whole thing did not fill the shoes it set out to fill.
Carol Ward Yoga
I was really enthralled with the setting being in the jungle.
I could almost feel the heat and humidity there.
Took me awhile to figure out what was going on but I didn't know what the book was about and then when they left for brazil I was hooked
Unable to put down ~ Uniquely Fantastic
Bel Canto, but I liked State of Wonder better...because Bel Canto's ending was dissatisfying for me.
"STOP THE BOAT" scene
"Who knew a doctor of pharmacology could be interesting without being a felon"....but no that wouldn't sell the movie to the masses...so I guess I'd go with..."Conquer the Rainforest, your Fears and your Peers in a State of Wonder"
If you liked other audiobooks by Ann Patchett...or any Margaret Attwood...or any other quality writer...listen to this book! Also, regarding the narrator; at first I thought the slight lisp would bother me...but no...Hope Davis is a great narrator...she has a great understanding of tone and inflection...and the lisp becomes endearing.
I loved listening to this book because of the different accents.
When many truths were revealed it was so fascinating and in some ways unexpected.
This was one of the best books I have ever listened to. I was indeed sad when it ended. Patchett's writing is so detailed and the characters and plot are interwoven but yet, easy to follow. The character development was exceptional. I would love to see a part two of this particular story.
I read so I can write
I wasn't sure what to expect from this story. It was one that I thought might be worth reading. It was amazing. The characters are strong, the story has mystery and interest and kept me from first to finish. Worth your time and credit. Great narration as well.
This book came highly recommended and I was not disappointed. This is the first book by Patchett I've read and I'm eager now to get into her other works. Patchett's prose is lovely and some of her imagery will stick with me always. We come to know her characters gradually, as circumstances and dialog lead them to reveal more of their personal histories, motives, desires, and regrets.
This is a definite "re-listen."
Hope Davis does a skilled job of narration. I'm adding her to my list of favorites!
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a great story with great characters and plenty of exciting plot twists and turns. Hope Davis' performance was FABULOUS too! I highly recommend this.
In this world of talentless people becoming famous and mediocrity becoming celebrated (Who is John Galt, anyway?), we are blessed with Ann Patchett, who is a talented writer who clearly strives for excellence. This is a good story with interesting characters. This is a book filled with perfectly chosen words, phrases and sentences. It evokes emotion, it envelopes the reader in atmosphere and it does what a good novel is supposed to do: puts you in a state of wonder about what's going to happen next! It also makes you think about current trends in medicine and pharmacology and the moral considerations of both. I really loved this book!
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