Literary Fiction Mystery

State of Wonder – Ann Patchett

27 February 2020
State of Wonder Book Cover State of Wonder
Ann Patchett
A&C Black
April 26, 2012

SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2012 There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson's work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders' colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders's wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend's steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.


State of Wonder is a story that conveys a wonderful adventure of stunning scope and scenery. Marina Singh is sent into the isolated regions of the Rio Negro to investigate the death of one colleague and meet up with her former professor and team leader Dr Swenson. Dr Swenson has been pursuing a biologic drug candidate which could revolutionise treatment for women. The investors, funding the research, are keen to understand the details, but it is shrouded in secrecy. Will they ever get it out of the Amazon basin or will it remain another secret of the rainforest?

The narrative keeps us balanced between the wonders of the remote rainforests and the dangers ready to inflict damage at any moment. The wonderful writing creates imagery that enables us to step inside this world and see the expanse and allure of the rainforests, feel the humidity and atmosphere of the jungle, and get a sense of the hidden tribes in these regions. Many tribes have never engaged with the outside world and some are still cannibalistic, while others have accepted interactions with these strangers. Each tribe is very territorial with its own unique characteristics and secrets. There is a wonderful feeling of authenticity through the rituals and cultures as they dictate so much of the actions taken. Many are just so alien to our experiences.

I love the pace Ann Patchett delivers in her books that is gentle and flowing and just keeps you wanting to turn the pages. It is a brilliant engrossing story of exceptional insight and fantastic backdrop of the rainforest. I love Patchett’s writing style and I highly recommend this book.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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