Book Review: State of Wonder (Kindle Edition)

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Books


Marina Singh is a former OB/GYN who now works as pharmacologist who works at Vogel pharmaceuticals. Vogel is working on a fertility drug in the Amazon, and if it comes to market, it could be worth millions to Vogel.  Then Marina hears that colleague Anders Eckman is dead.  Mr. Fox, the CEO of Vogel wants Marina to go to the Amazon, and find out what progress is being made with the fertility drug, and Karen, Anders wife, makes Marina promise that she will find out what happened to Anders.  Complicating matters is the fact that Marina and Mr. Fox are dating, and the person in charge of the fertility drug program is Annick Swenson, Marina’s professor and mentor in medical school. Dr. Swenson can be very intimidating, and is not happy to have another interruption to her research.

Two Australians, Jackie and Barbara Bovender track down the elusive Dr Swenson at an opera, and she is accompanied by a deaf native boy named Easter.  Dr Swenson, maintains that Anders is dead, and not only is Dr. Swenson working on the fertility drug, she is working on a malaria drug without Mr. Fox’s knowledge.  Dr Swenson maintains Anders is dead from a fever, and Marina has no evidence to prove otherwise, so she sets out to see how the fertility drug is made.  It is a substance in the bark one of the local trees that makes the local women of the Lakashi tribe menstruate and become pregnant at very late ages.  Not only does Marina let the native women braid her hair, she partakes of the tree bark, she delivers a Lakashi baby, and kills a python just as  the python is about to devour Easter, Marina has become quite the local hero.   Marina also discovers quite late, that Dr. Swenson is pregnant, at age 76.  Will Marina help her mentor deliver her baby, will Marina find Anders, dead or alive?  Will Marina take Easter home, will Dr. Swenson let her?

This book is a mess.  It starts out great, Marina is a pretty good protagonist, Dr. Swenson is a great antagonist and Marina’s mission is to find a missing colleague.  That is a great set up, but Patchett lets too many things get in the way.  Marina’s half Indian ethnicity, other than a few stray passages about India, there is no mention of Marina’s ethnicity.  Then there’s Marina’s relationship with her boss, who’s much older, the relationship is messy and Patchett doesn’t seem to want to invest in it so she drops the relationship and brings it back tepidly later on.  Who in the hell calls their lover Mr. Fox? And then there’s Dr. Swenson, who had some nice sharp edges to her character, so they impregnate her, and Marina, who used to deliver babies couldn’t recognize a pregnant lady until she was told by Swenson, late in the book.  How dumb is that?  And Swenson is impregnated with her long dead professor’s baby.  How did Swenson manage that? It’s also creepy to boot.  Also there are too many secondary and tertiary characters,  Dr. Budi, Dr. Nkomo, two  doctor Saturns, Nancy and Alan, the Bovernders, Milton, and I’m probably missing a few.  These characters had no development, and I did not care about them, why were they in this book?  To eat up pages?  The ending is insultingly bad, in an attempt to wrap things up neatly, Patchett sets up an impossible choice for Marina, no matter what she chooses, she’ll feel she’ll feel like she made a horrible choice, why would an author do that to her protagonist?

State of Wonder:  Wonder why it got published.


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