Wednesday, June 22, 2011

book review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

The backstory: I've been eagerly awaiting State of Wonder since I first heard about it, even though I had not read any of Ann Patchett's other novels (I'll be reading her Orange Prize-winning novel Bel Canto soon.)

The basics: Scientist Marina Singh faces the heart-wrenching task of relaying the death of Anders, her colleague and friend, to his wife and three sons. When both his widow Karen and the head of the drug company she works for ask her to go to the Amazon to find out more about his death and check the progress of the top-secret drug development Anders went down to check on, she feels she must go, despite her reservations.

My thoughts: About once a year, I encounter a book that works for me on every level. Since I began blogging, there are two books I've rated six stars (out of a possible five): American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld and Room by Emma Donoghue. State of Wonder is the third. It's a novel I immediately wanted to stick in people's hands and say "read this book." (I did, in fact, immediately place it in Mr. Nomadreader's hands, as I chose it for our first book club read.)

State of Wonder is unlike anything else I've read. To me, a reader of mostly literary fiction (and mysteries), it read like an adventure novel. Readers of actual adventure novels may disagree, but there was intrigue, action and suspense. There were also past secrets, a fascinating anthropological study, a terrifying but exotic location, scientific developments, and current secrets. Most importantly, there was beautifully executed, observant, prose that didn't get in the way of the story. There were times I laughed, cried, cringed and held my breath to see what would happen next.

I loved it while I was reading it, but I was so caught up in the plot and writing, I didn't start to think of it as a novel in its entirety until the end of the book. As I reflected on the journeys of the characters and on my journey as a reader, I was awed. State of Wonder showed the restraint and patience of a seasoned writer who believed in her characters and story enough to tell the story brilliantly.

Favorite passage: "In this life we love who we love. There were some stories in which facts were very nearly irrelevant."

The verdict: State of Wonder is the best book I've read in 2011, which has been an excellent reading year. It's a beautifully written tale of adventure, journey and life itself. Highly recommended to almost everyone. It's the rare literary novel that will appeal to most people.

Rating: 6 stars (out of 5)
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours (see the full tour schedule)

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy State of Wonder from Amazon (Kindle version) or an independent bookstore (you'll have to wait until fall to buy it directly from Ann's independent bookstore in Nashville, a city Mr. Nomadreader and I love so much we got married there.) In the meantime, you can peruse her website.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

22 comments:

  1. I have really loved other books by Ann Patchett and so I'm definitely planning on reading this one. You've convinced to do so sooner rather than later. 6 stars. Wow!

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  2. You've convinced me - adding it to my wish list! (I'm now #608 on my library's hold list; if it's that good, I might just buy it to have a copy to lend to friends.)

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  3. I'm halfway through State of Wonder and am really enjoying it! Definitely pick up Bel Canto soon - it's also a great read. Patchett's prose just carries me away sometimes.
    --Rayna

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  4. Great review!

    I've also had an excellent reading year. Haven't read this one (Or Bel Canto) yet.

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  5. The fact that you rated it 6 out of 5 stars tells me I really need to read it!

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  6. This is the second gushing review I've read of this one and it makes believe (fingers crossed!) I'll enjoy it as much as I did Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars.

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  7. I'm so glad to hear that! I just started this couple of days back and love it so far!!

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  8. I read Bel Canto several years ago, and it was one book that really stuck with me. I have to say that your review does more than intrigue, and that this is a book that I am going to have to check out. 6 stars is pretty impressive. I'm just sayin'.

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  9. Wow..I have this book on my TBR pile, and after this review, I will put it to the top :)
    This has been a good reading year!

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  10. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book because of all the buzz it's getting. Your review of it is perfect. I'll add it to my tbr list. :-)

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  11. Great review! I've read a couple of Ann's books and have this one on my radar. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did.

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  12. I have never read this author but have heard nothing but good things about this book. I especially trust your judgment so I now know I will definitely be getting this book!

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  13. Wow that's wonderful that you liked it so much! I've only read one of Patchett's books so far but I am really looking forward to this one too, now more so that I've read your review.

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  14. Wow! That is high praise! I had this on my radar, but you've just put it straight on my wishlist. I hope that I enjoy it as much as you did.

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  15. Wow, I can't wait to read this one. I adore Bel Canto and many of her other books.

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  16. 6 stars out of 5! I have heard so many great things about this book so it does not surprise me! This one will be going on my wish list for sure!

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  17. Whoa! What an encouraging review! I have the audiobook on my iPod, so it's ready and waiting for me.

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  18. The only Ann Patchett novel I've read was Bel Canto, which I thought I would love and then ended up hating. I need to try another one, though, as there was plenty about Bel Canto that I could have loved. This one sounds good...six stars out of five, how can I not be intrigued?

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  19. 6 out of 5 stars?? I really am going to have to pick this one up!

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  20. Wow, this sounds completely fantastic! I'm so glad you were a part of the tour - I'm featuring this review on TLC's Facebook page today

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  21. I recently finished this one, and I have to say I didn't love it as much as you did... but then again, I think we have different tastes in books. I like plot-driven books, and it seemed like it took so long for things to happen. Also, I really didn't like the ending - way too gimmicky and didn't fit the tone of the rest of the book. But, this goes to show that there is something for everyone!

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  22. Ok, I've been intimidated by her writing but seeing this review makes me think I have to get it soon. I'm sure I can pick it up at the library.. the anthropological aspect is especially appealing.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!