Saturday, December 29, 2012
State of Wonder. by Ann Patchett
Dr. Marina Singh, employed by a pharmaceutical company, follows fellow scientist Anders Eckman into the Amazon at the behest of her boss (and lover), Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox had received a letter from a field scientist, Dr. Swenson, saying that Eckman, who had come to urge her to provide more frequent reports of her progress, had gotten a fever and died there. Swenson's work is part of an effort to develop a fertility drug for the pharmaceutical company.
There are complications. Not least of them is the fact that Swenson is notoriously difficult to find and to persuade. She wants to do things her way and not be hurried or harassed. She has a young couple set up in her "town" apartment whose main job is to divert those who are interested in meeting with Swenson.
Marina was chosen in large part because she was a student of Swenson's years ago. Supposedly she knows how to get through to her. Marina is not so sure but allows herself to be persuaded to go. The main reason she decides to go is that Eckman's wife wants to be absolutely certain that her husband is dead. She wants Marina to find proof. She prefers to believe that he is still alive until she is given that proof.
The first many days in the little town are spent trying to connect to Dr. Swenson. When she is finally successful she follows the good doctor into the Amazon, on her boat. There she is soon absorbed by Swenson's work and by meeting and learning about the natives.
Marina's character is caring and giving, and also very human. It is easy to relate to her and to want the most for her and even to want her affair with "Mr. Fox" to go well in spite of the large difference in their ages (Fox is many years older.) There is a warmth and kindness not only in Marina but in many of the other characters as well, even, to some extent, the unyielding Dr. Swenson. Is it this that attracted me to this book? Yes, but there is more. There is the way Marina faces her life in the Amazon, how she makes her decisions, what she actually does, that is just delightful, although that word may not seem appropriate at times. As in Bel Canto, there is unexpected pleasure throughout. What more could you want?