State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Goodreads - June 6, 2011 by Harper (US) and Bloomsbury (UK)
“In this life we love who we love. There were some stories in which facts were very nearly irrelevant.”
Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.
Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations.
In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.
I don't usually feature literary fiction here - but I absolutely adore Ann Patchett. She's one of those authors who knows how to construct a novel with a style so effortless you know it required endless planning. The saying that the best coincidences require a lot of planning? Well, that's Ann Patchett. Her novel The Magician's Assistant is one of my very favourites. And her last novel, Run, was absolutely stunning. I've spent the last 5 years desperately awaiting news about a new book, so imagine my joy to hear about State of Wonder!
The only thing I am worried about in this book is the "research" aspect. Pharmaceutical researchers are infamous for their animal testing, but I'm going to hope that Dr. Marina Singh is one of the rare few who does not engage in this disgusting practice! Otherwise she shall be rather difficult (read: impossible) to relate to!