Death. Drugs. Bugs. Nightmares. Snakes. Bugs. Humidity. More bugs. State of Wonder is hardly an easy story. However, it’s a story worth reading!
Get ready for a fantastic new novel that takes you deep into the Amazon and explores the the mysteries of fertility, the complexities of female relationships, and the morality of science and entitlement. I told you it wasn’t easy!
After her male colleague is reported dead, Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist at the pharmeciutical company Vogel in Minnesota is jolted out of her complacent life in a safe job and a comfortable relationship with her boss. Marina is sent into the inhospitable jungle charged with learning how her colleague died and to report on the progress of Dr. Annick Swensen’s research. Dr. Swensen also happens to be Marina’s arrogant and disdainful medical school professor.
Dr. Swensen is in the jungle studying a tribe of Lakashi women who become pregnant into their sixties and seventies (GASP!). She is working on a wonder drug based on her research.
Patchett describes the jungle as a place where “at dusk the insects came down in a storm, the hard-shelled and soft-sided, the biting and stinging,” Despite the gross descriptions, I felt compelled to turn the page of this book.
Dr. Swenson is a strange mix of chutzpah, intelligence, willfulness, and pretension. She demands respect and yet there are certain aspects of her morals and ethics that are questionable. She is simultaneously fascinating and obnoxious. However, I was completely drawn to her character.
I’ve never been exactly attracted to go to the Amazon. Something about the moths with “wings the size of handkerchiefs”; bats that stick to walls, “flattened out like thick daubs of mud” that dissuade me. As a matter of fact, even reading this book brought on hot flashes.
However, what I especially enjoyed about the book is that it took me out of my comfort zone and it made me think differently (Silver Lining). It also made me think about the ethics of pharmaceutical research on indigenous people, their inevitable exploitation and the importance of economics in health-related research.
Hope you enjoy it!
The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.