Sunday, July 17, 2011

State of Wonder

State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although my blog is called "Checking off the Bucket List," I don't have a list. I know when I do something extraordinary, I decide that was one. And there are some things I know will never be on my Bucket List. Going down the Amazon River is one. A few years ago, my husband and I cruised South America, starting at Valparaiso, Chile, around Cape Horn, and ending in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We had stops along that route, including Rio de Janeiro. And as close as we were to the Amazon River, the only Amazon on our lips was dot com.

I think the Amazon has been taking out its revenge on me since then. After I read John Grisham's Testament a few months ago, I thought I had learned all I ever wanted to know about the Amazon River. And now comes State of Wonder with its Lakashi tribe whose women bear children into their seventies. Dr. Annick Swenson has made it her life's work to study the elements of tribal life that make this phenomenon possible. After she presents her case to Vogel Pharmaceutical company, they fund her research with the hope of patenting a drug which will make late-life pregnancy possible for all the women who want it. (HAH!)

After Dr. Swenson has spent years with very little communication with Vogel, they send one scientist to investigate and get an update on the project. When he is reported dead, they send another pharmacologist who happens to have done a residency in obstetrics under Annick Swenson as attending physician. (Why is this sounding like my pastor's sermon this morning on the parable of the tenants, Mark 12?) Have I digressed enough?

State of Wonder is a fascinating story of love, deceit, manipulation, disease, cultural much stuff that when I finished reading last night, my brain kept processing all the threads way past midnight, thinking about the characters I had come to care about, wondering how they could return to their lives in Minnesota after they've seen the Amazon.

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