This week I read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Ann also owns one of my very favorite indie bookstores, Paranassas Books, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ann Patchett is a national treasure. She is one of the best writers of my generation, and I love State of Wonder. The plot is a bit of a slow starter, but if you press on, I think you'll love it, too! The story is a fantastic escape, yet Patchett's elegant prose lifts it to literary heights.
Dr. Marina Singh is a research doctor with Vogel, a major pharmaceutical company. Her lab partner, Dr. Anders Eckman, has died of a fever in the Amazonian jungle while checking on yet another research doctor, Annick Swenson. Swenson is spending millions of dollars developing a fertility drug that will enable women to delay conception and birth past menopause, and the drug will also make Vogel billion of dollars. Eckman's widow, Karen, and Marina's boss convince her to travel to the Amazon and find out the details of Eckman's death while also reporting on Swenson's progress.
Marina is used to the wide open prairie skies and cold Minnesotan winters. Nothing could have prepared her for the heat, humidity, and claustrophobic vegetative canopy of the jungle. There are dangers everywhere: anacondas and poisonous lancehead snakes; insects; cannibal natives wielding poison arrows and darts; and fevers. The mysterious martin trees' bark combined with excretions from a moth have enabled the native Lakashi women's lifelong fertility. The jungle is full of miracles, and not just among the Lakashi. The plot is shockingly unpredictable, and the relationships between the characters are wonderfully complicated. I think an honors ethics class could be based entirely on this book. I truly loved everything about it, including the science and the ending which made me gasp out loud.
What have you been reading? This is a linky.