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Editorial 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

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
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  • Nguyen
  • Annandale, NJ, United States
  • 09-08-11

Not so great -- despite the reviews

I read the reviews and decided to get the book. In my opinion, the story line was pretty good, but everything else fell short. I have never read an Ann Patchett book, but I found this one doesn't deliver. I kept listening and waiting for something -- anything -- to happen, but then the book ended. I was left with the feeling that I was robbed. I invested myself in this book, but did not get anything in return. Moreover, Hope Davis does not improve upon the story. The narration was flat and monotonic, and there was clearly no passion or feeling that was conveyed adequately. For anyone who is looking for a good read that delivers in narration, plot line, and emotion/feeling -- this is not the book to reach for.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Beautiful story

Loved this book - such beautiful writing - Hope Davis' narration was spot on - there is a synergistic relationship between the writing and the narration that's hard to describe - quite compelling - it just works on a vey high level.

The ending seemed a little rushed compared to the rest of the book. Overall, I recommend it highly.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Janet
  • LAKE FOREST, CA, United States
  • 09-06-11

One of the best

Loved everything about this book. Great story and characters. If I could give Hope Davis more than five stars for her performance I would.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

First read a bit predictable

The writer never tires of describing the space around her so you always feel as though you're included. While the writing follows a predictable cadance the story concept is not a believable one. I found that it was hard to beleive a large drug company would allow so much "hands off" in the management & R&D of this new drug. Parts of the story after half-way through were laborious to listen to. The romantic ending was totally unexpected & with all the descriptive rhettoric throughout the story I felt that little was given to this tender monent. It feels as though the writer runs out of steam & just wants to get the story over in about two chapters. Overall, the writer has a gift for descriptive characters and scenes. The narrarrator was soft spoken & seemed to do a good job at drawing her character from the descriptions given.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Could Have Been Great --- Reduced to OK Story

Doctor working for pharmaceutical company treks to Amazon to find the body of dead cubicle-mate, who went to the Amazon searching for doctor's former heartless medical school professor who ruined her life, but is now working on a cure for menopause. With a plot like that, a lot could have happened. In fact, it doesn't. The story got a little goofy --- Martins, Raps, martinets -- and then it got unbelievable, reminding me a little of Jurassic Park when science goes strange. The reader is excellent and kept the book entertaining. The characters were interesting --- Marina was a little too Pollyanna-ish, but Dr. Swenson was a tough old bird and very easy to like. The book gets more stars because of her. I wish the book had just been about her. And I jwish the plot had been more realistic.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nancy
  • Little Rock, AR, United States
  • 08-30-11

State of Wonder a winner.

I enjoyed State of Wonder and would suggest that if readers enjoyed Avatar (the new 3-D movie) AND African Queen (the old b/w movie) there is a good chance they will like this book. Ann Patchett's novel takes the reader into darkest, buggiest Amazon and also to a jungle forest with seemingly magical powers. A fine, solid work of fiction and a terrific listen for audible.com subscribers.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sarah
  • Columbus, OH, United States
  • 08-25-11

Good book, terrible ending

I really enjoyed this book right up until the very last chapter. The descriptions and character development are wonderful. It feels like the author just gave up on the story line and decided the book was simply over.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Booorrriiinnnggg

I'm glad a lot of people enjoyed this book, but to me it is the second most boring book I have listened to. The idea behind the story was great, but the story could have been told in two hours.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Audible version

Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite authors, and on the whole this reading was pretty good. If your name is Marina, however, as mine is, be prepared for a constant mangling of the name. And since, as the main character, her name comes up A LOT, this was like a constant grating static. The reader could not stick with one pronunciation. How hard is it--really?! "Marina" like a boat marina. Get it straight.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

State of Slumber

I kept waiting for the story to get less boring but gave up in hour 3.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful