State of Wonder

by Ann Patchett

State

 

Story:  A doctor is dispatched to South America to learn what she can about a potentially groundbreaking drug and also the mysterious death of a treasured colleague.

Good:  Patchett is a gifted storyteller. The steaming, swarming Amazon and its menagerie of snakes, cannibals, and other perils seem very real.

Not So Good:  The plot includes some hefty leaps of faith. Why on earth would a pharmaceutical company send the heroine – an indoor girl” if ever there was one, and certainly no Indiana Jones – on such a hazardous mission into the wilds of Brazil?

Good:  Two themes are intriguing: 1) If an American company discovers the cure for a disease, but can expect little or no monetary gain, is it obligated to persevere for the benefit of third-world countries? 2) Should women well into their 40s – and older – have the right to reproduce, assuming it becomes possible?

Not So Good:  The novel is poorly edited. It’s littered with unclear passages and ambivalent pronouns.

Good:  In domineering “Dr. Swenson,” Patchett creates a true original, an older woman who suffers no fools and delivers an endless supply of amusing quips.

Not So Good:  Most of the other characters, including the heroine and her lover, the ludicrously titled “Mr. Fox,” are flat.

 

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