As a novelist I am very impressed with the challenges Ann Patchett shouldered when she set out to write STATE OF WONDER. Granted, my knowledge of Ms. Patchett is limited to information found on the dust jacket and the enjoyment I took several years ago when I read BEL CANTO. But nothing from either of those sources suggests how she could so realistically create a protagonist who has an Indian father, is a skilled gynecological surgeon and an experienced pharmacological researcher who lives in Minnesota and who ends up neck deep in the Amazon rain forest surrounded by weird plants, beasts and aboriginals. This writer seems to know everything about everything.
She is also excellent at plotting a story. She releases information with the precision of an IV drip. She marches us head forward into emotionally gripping situations that she describes with unhurried clarity. (Who does not shudder, to give just one example, at the thought of having to tell a friend about the sudden death of a loved one?) Her characters are wonderfully complex and interesting, Dr. Swenson, first and foremost. The resolution of all the various threads and complications is complete and satisfying. STATE OF WONDER is both intellectually interesting and page-turning fun. Warning: Pick up this book and until you finish it other things in your life may suffer.