Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jungle Sci-Fi

Ann Patchett’s latest novel, "State of Wonder" opens in a small town in Minnesota in the dead of winter. But it quickly takes the reader to the depths of the Amazon jungle. Marina Singh is a pharmacologist working for a major drug company. Marina learns that her lab partner and dear friend, Anders Eckman, has died of a sudden fever in the Amazon Jungle. Anders was sent by their employer, Vogel Pharmaceutical Company, to Brazil to bring back information about the progress another employee, Dr. Annick Swenson, was making on a miracle fertility drug.

Marina’s boss and lover, “Mr. Fox”, convinces Marina she has to go to Brazil to find Dr. Swenson and bring the miracle drug to Vogel. Ander’s wife believes Marina can find out what happened to her husband.

So begins Marina’s journey to the depths of the jungle where she confronts her past and finds answers she never imagined. She becomes part of Dr. Swenson’s world among the wonderful Lakashi Tribe. She sees and learns things that her scientific mind cannot grasp and she learns to trust the jungle and its inhabitants, strange as they are. But ultimately Ann Patchett is presenting the question of medical and moral ethics that surround the need to preserve natural resources and the habitats of the native people who live and thrive on these resources, which can be and (more often than not) are, more important than scientific discovery.

Ann Patchett has written a scientific thriller with an ending that is as unexpected as it is touching and sad.

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