Ann Patchett, State of Wonder
The product of an artist in her prime
Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder begins, elegantly, with a death. “At that moment she un-derstood why people say, ‘You might want to sit down,’” writes Patchett of Midwestern pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh, as she is informed of a colleague’s demise in the Amazon jungle. “There was inside of her a very modest physical collapse, not a faint but a sort of folding, as if she were an extension ruler and her ankles and knees and hips were all being brought together at closer angles.”
But what follows this moment is the most vibrant of stories, full of color and life. As Marina sets off for the Amazon in search of the last person to see her research partner alive, the reclusive and cantankerous Dr. Annick Swenson, the book blooms. The prose is rich, the characters are vividly rendered, and the relationship between Marina and Dr. Swenson, who is investigating an absurdly fertile Amazonian tribe, is complex, funny and deeply engaging.
State of Wonder, the sixth novel from Pen/Faulkner award-winning Patchett, is the product of an artist in her prime. So, too, is the audiobook, which is narrated by actress Hope Davis, who mesmerizingly voices dozens of characters of different genders, ages and nationalities. A lesser work would still be worth listening to if Davis was reading it. But the combination of Patchett’s words and Davis’s interpretation of them creates a sublime audiobook experience.