‘State of Wonder’ is a gripping tale of love and intrigue set in the depths of the Brazilian Amazon forest where there are also themes of morality and culture explored. Patchett’s writing is pretty gripping and very intriguing; here is a masterful writer of sorts who has also received substantial praise from the book’s reviewers. Here we observe that the book explores the themes of love and morality in various subtle ways. Science is also an important factor and is accordingly given importance although it appears to be less apparent during certain episodes. Patchett’s quotes about truth and hope appertained to the Marina set the theme for the novel.
The discovery of a wonder drug which enables women to bear children until the end of their lives is an important focus of the book and further demonstrates Patchett’s feminism which is of a more subtle kind. The way she describes the cannibal tribe is also rather instructive and ingenious and leaves one waiting for more. In fact one could argue that she poses more questions than answers in her descriptive narrative. Here we also have the cultural context thrown in for good measure where Marina seems to be struggling to come to terms with another culture.
“Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It's a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.” (Patchett, 2012)
This quote from the book is instructive as it shows that you should not build your life on hope as this will come all crashing down upon you one day. This is basically a subtle allusion at the hope which focused around the finding of the miracle drug and assuring that this was to be made a success. Marina’s earthy and down to earth summation of hope may seem devastating at first but there definitely is a ring of truth to it.
“No one tells the truth to people they don't actually know, and if they do it is a horrible trait. Everyone wants something smaller, something neater than the truth.” (Patchett, 2012)
This is another stunning quote from Marina and another one that rings quite true with all the stunning force of a slam dunk. Patchett is at pains to point out that the truth may be uncomfortable for some and in the depths of the Brazilian forest, this is a reality to survive. The relationship between Dr Vogel who is the company’s CEO and Marina is full of lust and passion but even he keeps the truth about the wonder drug from his lover, an allusion to his lack of morals. The poignant ending to the book when the cannibal tribe will accept nothing more than the blind child who was reared by the woman doctor is also a reflection on the truth game but love is also very much apparent.
Patchett is a master storyteller and in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest she tugs at our hearts but also touches upon the ignorance and benign stupidity which pervades our own culture where we think we can discover everything and are better than everyone. The guilt which seems to permeate Marina throughout is perhaps another high point of the novel.
Patchett Ann; State of Wonder; Harper Perennial, 2012 Print
Clark, Susan. "State of Wonder review". The Washington Independent Review of Books. Retrieved Jun 8, 2011.
Joanna Bourke (10 October 2011). "2011 Wellcome Trust Book Prize shortlist". The Lancet. Retrieved September 30, 2012.