Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Marina Singh has carefully created a safe, quiet life for herself.  After a tragic mistake during her residency, she gave up the life of a surgeon and became a researcher for a pharmecutical firm.  However, when her partner mysteriously disappears in the Amazon while trying to locate a rogue field researcher, Marina finds herself on a plane to the jungle.  It is a world she has been terrified of her whole life: wild, chaotic, confusing.  It is a world where nothing and nobody are as they seem.  A world where the lines of medicine and ethics are constantly blurred and where Marina feels simultaneously terrified and fascinated.

As she tracks down Dr. Swenson, the researcher who claims Marina's lab partner has died, she discovers a lab where life-changing breakthroughs are just under the surface.  In the middle of it all is a tribe of people who are profoundly strange and tender, and very vulnerable.  They are the keepers of a secret, a secret that could cause an end to malaria worldwide, or could create bloody battles for control of this powerful new discovery.  As the book spirals towards its climax, Marina is forced to make decisions that no doctor, or no human, could easily make.  

If I had to use one phrase to describe this book it would be "thought provoking."  I found myself contemplating it long after I had read the last pages.  It is beautiful and tragic with strong and dynamic characters and an intricate plot.  It is a story that will possibly change the way you think about the world around you.

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