Friday, June 29, 2012

State of Wonder

This was Kaarina's pick for the BPYC book club and provoked some great discussion.

Being summoned into darkness, traveling to the heart of the jungle, and descending into madness... State of Wonder reminded me at times of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

In this case a brilliant doctor has gone rogue.  She refuses to report back to her employer at the pharmaceutical company about her progress developing a fertility drug that will extend a woman's reproductive life well into old age.  The company sends another researcher to investigate, and he is reported dead within a matter of months. Our heroine, Marina, begins a quest to retrieve evidence that will help set his family at ease.

While on one level this is a detective story, the author is actually presenting a far deeper mystery. Snakes, a garden of Eden, and a boy named Easter are some of the clues Patchett embeds.   For me, the state of wonder becomes a question of right and wrong.   Most of the characters create their own rules on some level and invent rationale that allow them to live in their own self-interest.  The biggest example being the doctor. Does she have the right to lie and risk the lives of others for the greater good?  And who determines what is the greater good?  At what point does it all become insanity?

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