When all the family time gets to be a bit too much over the Thanksgiving holiday, why not recede quietly into a quiet nook to lose yourself in the pages of a great book? Ann Patchett’s latest novel, State of Wonder, is the perfect escapist read, combining beautiful prose with a gripping plot.
State of Wonder begins in a Minnesota suburb, at a large pharmaceutical firm when a devastating announcement is delivered on a flimsy blue aerogram. “This single sheet had traveled from Brazil to Minnesota to mark the passing of a man, a breath of tissue so insubstantial that only the stamp seemed to anchor it to this world.” The letter is short and to the point, not even using up all the available space on the pre-lined paper: Anders Eckman has died of a fever in the Brazilian jungle.
Marina, his former office mate, is the letter’s recipient, and it falls on her to break the news to Anders’ wife, Karen. Shattering this young family forever is only the beginning of Marina’s involvement however. When the widow refuses to accept that her husband is dead, she convinces Marina to travel deep into the Brazilian amazon to find her husband’s missing body. And that’s when Ann Patchett will grab you and throw you in a lush, vivid world filled with terrifying native tribes and a maze of pharmaceutical research intrigue. You won’t just read about the giant snakes and insects, you’ll feel them slithering and buzzing around your head. Patchett will own you from that point on, taking hold of your every waking moment until you finish this amazing story.
Ann Patchett had already proved that she is a a gift storyteller when she gave us Bel Canto, the lyrical and poetic account of an unlikely love story that develops during a terrorist kidnapping. She proves it again by delivering a completely different novel with complicated and likable characters set in a vivid and exotic locale. I couldn’t put State of Wonder down, I read it breathlessly in every free waking moment I could find between baby feedings, and when it ended, I felt disoriented, surprised to find myself in Chicago instead of the dangerous and lush jungle of Brazil.
I highly recommend State of Wonder.