State of WonderI think by now everyone knows how much I adore Ann Patchett. Every book of hers that I read, I thoroughly enjoy. Plus, she’s so dang smart, and literary, and she opened her own bookstore, Parnassus Books in Memphis and was one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People last year. I mean, what CAN’T this woman do?

Well, she couldn’t write a book that all the Book Babes agreed on—gasp! I know. Really. Shocking. Stuff. Here’s how it went down:

January’s host mandated State of Wonder for our book club read. All of us were thrilled, knowing how much we loved Truth and Beauty and The Magician’s Assistant. It was clear we all were eager to start.  Personally, I was even more excited to read it knowing that my mother, stepmother and good friend Deirdre—all solid readers whose book opinions I trust pretty much without reservation—loved it. 

I pulled out my signed copy that I picked up last May and dove right in. From page one I was immersed in the story of Dr. Marina Singh, a pharmacy researcher under the employ of Minnesota drug manufacturer Vogel, who is sent deep into the Amazon to check up on a colleague. Dr. Annick Swenson, an OBGYN researching the possibility of the next miracle in fertility medicine, has been away from the lab for years. She has been completely out of touch with Vogel, working on her own timetable with no respect for shareholder goals and the company’s schedule.

There’s a significant problem with Marina’s trip. The previous Vogel employee, a trusted colleague of Marina’s that was also sent to find Dr. Swenson, is now missing. The other issue? Dr. Swenson is Marina’s former boss (former because of a horrific accident that Marina never wants to relive). It is with this fear, uncertainty and insecurity that Marina takes what turns into a life-changing, life-saving journey.

Sounds interesting, right?

Actually, it was pretty interesting and three of the other Book Babes agreed with me. We each gave the book an A, citing the beautiful writing, strong character development and the complicated, yet engaging plot. Two were in somewhat close agreement with us and decided a B was fitting. Two were lukewarm, citing frustration with some of the characters and directions the story took and one questioned whether she read the same book we all did after firmly announcing her grade of an F. Her rationale was that she didn’t connect or have interest in any of the characters. Not a one. Wow. Really?

I told her that she was entitled to her opinion, even though it was wrong.

And then we laughed, thank goodness, because we are that kind of group.

State of Wonder is by far, after almost 10 years of reading, dining and dishing, the most controversially discussed book by our group. I wouldn’t have expected it in a million years. And even though our impressions were all over the board, I have to say it was one of the best discussions we have ever had. Patchett creates an Amazon environment full of challenges, intrigue and drama. There are no easy answers for the characters, and it’s very interesting to see the choices they make and the consequences they experience.

It’s because of this discordance in our views on State of Wonder that I want even more people to read it. I found the subject matter so interesting that I would love other opinions on it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money; patronize your local library. I can’t promise you will enjoy it. However, I can promise it’s an astutely written story like nothing you have read before.

If you do check it out, check in here and let me know your thoughts.

Rating: 4 stars

Pages: 386

Genre: Fiction