Ann Patchett (born December 2, 1963) is an American author. She received the Orange Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for her novel Bel Canto. Patchett’s other novels include Run, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, and The Magician’s Assistant, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Nashville Banner Tennessee Writer of the Year Award in 1994.
I find the name State of Wonder completely irrelevant to the book, which is not bad, let the readers imagine what they want to imagine, understand whatever rings a bell in their hearts or minds…
I was disappointed by the beginning, all the books teaching you how to write mention how important the beginning is, how it can hang a novel or be the key to its success. I tried twice: it couldn’t be a boring dissertation about the dull life of a lab guy who died, I thought, how is that women’s fiction?!
The book acquires substance in layers, you get hooked. The main character, Marina, is 42 years old, a bit of a misfit hiding away from her life in a pharmaceutical lab, having given up surgery over a hasty mistake, not getting over father’s issues, which are not even clearly known to us… I also completely disagree with her sluttish attitude at the end, no matter how many excuses Ann fabricates in order to save the face of her main character.
The story is enticing though. And it surely looks like Marina would get over her lassitude, her cocooned environment, her ludicrous fears and would learn how to live, and more importantly, that she has to, clock is ticking and we all have a limited license on life.
Ann makes us travel to Brazil, to the Amazon jungle, the tribes(more details about the Lakashi, who she forces Marina to live with). The plot focuses on a discovery that is of groundbreaking importance to science, so Marina’s journey is full of symbols. The descriptions of characters and places, of attitudes and circumstances are incredibly well tackled, casually thrown in, although of high importance. The journey is the trip to inferno, Marina is the successful survivor, and although Ann refers to Orpheus and Eurydice and Marina compares herself to a victorious Orpheus, one who does not look back, the ending is ambiguous and open, a clever way to let the reader imagine whatever it is that would bring them the satisfaction of a well written book.
I purposefully did not introduce the other characters, nor dwelled on their existence, habits, pros and cons… they are quite a few, well traced, so their firm images stay with you well after the book is over. Dr Annick Swenson, at 72, defeats all preconceptions and you admire the woman, the spirit, the idea of such a persona, she is the visionary, the scientist; the glimpse of humane feelings transpiring (the crazy love thing, who has time for that?) only brings her closer to our hearts.
I enjoyed the book, the quizzical ending made me a bit furious initially, but once I understood the reasoning I smiled at the idea that life could go all ways, it is for us to choose, and we do it constantly weather we are aware of it or not.
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