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In Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, after learning of Dr. Anders Eckman has died in the Amazon as part of a pharmaceutical mission to develop a promising new drug, Dr. Marina Singh goes to the heart of darkness to find the truth about how her colleague met his end.

Unfortunately, she is hindered by her old medical teacher, Dr. Annick Swenson, who is the one developing the drug. Swenson deliberately withholds information and acts as though she is god’s gift to the world.

I took issue with all of the characters: I was expecting a very dramatic journey to the Amazon, but it was though Singh didn’t care whether she was in the Amazon or in the United States. It actually seemed like she didn’t care about anything.

Swenson is extremely condescending and always acts like she is a hundred times better and smarter than everyone around her. Even though the company she works for is paying a lot of money for the drug she is creating, she doesn’t care to tell them anything about it.

Swenson also waits until the end of the book to tell Singh, “Hey, Anders isn’t actually dead and I didn’t actually bury him like I told you. He just sort of walked off.”

I also felt that the author was always holding back with the characters and the story. She would dance around an idea, but never directly say it out loud. For example, Singh talked about her father, who moved back to India after she was born. But she didn’t say what the exact issues she had with her father were.

Another example is the Amazon itself: Patchett discussed how perilous the rainforest is, but only in abstract terms, so it seemed the characters are never truly confronted with its dangers.

What’s also a bit strange was the drug that was being developed. Thirty years ago, a tribe was discovered that women were still getting pregnant in their 60s and 70s. This happened because of the tree bark/sap they would eat and from that, a drug was developed. This part of the story seemed a bit farfetched, especially since the rest of the story is grounded in reality. This fantasy only served to confuse and not to add a valuable moral story – that older women shouldn’t get pregnant, or that natural fertility should be respected.

This book was mediocre, especially because I was anticipating something more exciting and dramatic and unfortunately I was left with nothing really happening. I would not suggest this book at all.

Rating:

{x} Pretty bad
{  } Tolerable
{  } All right
{  } Exciting
{  } Enthralling

Book 39 out of 60

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