Years ago I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It was amazing. Quite simply it was one of the best books I’ve read. And I’ve read a few. But for some reason, I never read anything else written by her. I have no idea why. Thus, when State of Wonder was getting so much hype, I was reminded that I loved her other book so I dove in.
State of Wonder is part mystery, part mid-life coming of age, part travel novel, and so much more. A pharmaceutical company is developing a cutting edge fertility drug. The research and development is taking place in Brazil. The jungles of Brazil. While the president of the company is anxious to get news, the head doctor/researcher Dr. Swenson, is not anxious to give it. So a coworker is sent to Brazil to get the details. A few months later, a letter from Dr. Swenson arrives stating the coworker is dead. The president then sends down the research partner to find out what the hell is going on. She must then track down Dr. Swenson, find the lab, and get to the bottom of her friend’s death.
That’s the gist of it, but of course there is so much else going on. Some people have histories together, tangential characters become very important, the setting is an obstacle to be dealt with, and you get the picture.
I really enjoyed this one. The writing was wonderful, straightforward, open. I particularly appreciated the way the characters interacted and were portrayed by their words and silences as well as their actions.
The relationships were very well fleshed out over the course of the book, not too much at once, just a tad here and there. There were awkward moments, heartless ones, loving ones.
I was very fond of the little boy Easter. I wanted to hug him and teach him things. As did most of the characters in the novel.
I did have a tiny little issue with the basis of the drug research and what the drug could do. Seemed a little farfetched and not entirely fleshed out.
All in all, I give it 4.5 out of 5.