I see it as pure awesome in its complete perfection. 🙂
I sat on writing this review for a couple of days, because like the other Ann Patchett books I’ve read, it sits with you, haunts you, makes you keep thinking about the book, the characters and I feel like I needed a few days to write about what I thought about it.
I’m still torn between the 3 – 4 star rating. Let’s just go with 3.5 shall we?
State of Wonder concerns primarily, Dr. Marina Singh, Dr. Annick Swenson and Dr. Anders Eckman. Dr. Marina Singh is sent to find the remains and effects of a presumed dead Anders, but must first locate the famous and reclusive gynecologist, Dr. Swenson who is in charge of the research that their employer Vogel pharmaceuticals is anxiously awaiting results and progress reports. Dr. Swenson is researching the women of a local tribe who can conceive well past middle age, and other secret remedies. She and her research are totally off limits except to a chosen few, just she and her research team.
Marina Singh is a bit of a wishy-washy, hapless, forgetful heroine, with an interesting family history and medical school “issues”, Annick Swenson is a woman you love to hate, a person that frustrates you and at the same time creates a great sense of respect. And this is where I forgave the plot for being a tad drawn out, because I remembered that Patchett creates wonderful, unforgettable character-driven novels. Characters, as I mentioned above that you love to hate, want to wrap your arms around and just spend far more time that you are given with. One in particular is the native boy, Easter. My heart still breaks and cries for Easter.
All I can say is that travelling to the Amazon in my near future is a definite no-go – too crazy scary. And that Patchett so clearly leaves this book open for more – Marina MUST return to the Amazon and she MUST get Easter! She just has to go!! Easter! Go get him! (and she must also discover her love for the research in the Amazon and that she could very well be pregnant…) So, many loose ends at the ending, but a very good read that will stick with you for days after finishing it. I do recommend reading it, in fact I did pass it along to Jackie. It’s Ann Patchett, she cannot do much wrong in my opinion.
So, remember a few posts back where I was exclaiming that you must absolutely read this? Well, please ignore that because unfortunately, sigh, what started out with such brilliance and promise quickly flatlined and resulted in a frustrating, boring and annoying tale that was dragged on for far too many chapters. By the middle to the end, I was screaming in agony for this to end. I continued to torture myself because, hey, I had just given high praise for it – maybe it improves? Sadly, no.
Lucy Hull is a children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, a job she kind of landed because of her alumni contacts – no experience needed, just please come in and fill this position. Her very favourite patron is Ian, a 10-year-old boy that is causing much concern because of his apparent “gayness”. His mother is the “villain” as she gives Lucy an enormous list of what NOT to read, all the while choosing a library as the place to dump her child for free babysitting needs. Lucy is there to champion the right to read and enlarge your imagination. In the beginning we see Lucy’s father, a Russian immigrant, with marvelous and amusing commentary about the American governments Patriot Act and the fate of librarians everywhere, how America is founded by runaways, how no one seems to be happy with their career choices, this sense that everyone is always looking for something better.
At any rate, sigh, it had such tremendous promise in the beginning 7 or 8 chapters but then unfortunately went on and on and on and on for an additional 35+ chapters. I was so deeply in love with the beginning of this book – made me smile, oh how it made me smile and chuckle, and then Lucy takes Ian from the library, where he’s found camping out and the rest makes for one frustratingly loooong painful journey where you realize that Lucy is no heroine, just this ridiculous and whiny individual that allows a confused 10-year-old boy to make the decisions. I found myself screaming at her ridiculousness and to just take the friggen boy home! It was one asthma attack after another and she STILL leaves the decision of where to go next – including the Canadian border – up to Ian.
I first resisted this book because I thought I would be a little creeped out that the story is about this woman that takes a boy and they disappear for about 2 weeks. But as I said, in the beginning it was very amusing, well constructed and I thought I would be wrong. But no…right up until the very end I was completely frustrated and weirded out that this 26-year-old girl having an identity crisis makes off with a confused little boy that she’s convinced herself she’s saving. And she lets it go on and on and on and on. NOTHING in their travels is of interest at all. Just a lot of hand-wringing on Lucy’s part and whining about who she is, what will happen to her next.
AND…she gets away with it! – plops the kid on the Greyhound bus in the end and continues her disappearing act while she very whiningly tries to figure out who she is and what she’s doing. Even in the end she continues to believe that she is “saving” Ian, and what may be thought of as kind of neat and going along with the beginning premise of the book, (she secretly gives him a reading list for the rest of his years) is actually still incredibly creepy since she can’t leave this 10-year-old boy alone.
I did like Lucy’s Russian father though. Good stuff there, but as to trying to sync the Russian life of torment and running away with Lucy’s current American life – falls seriously and utterly flat.
The book finally, finally came to an end and I no longer had to scream at Lucy for being such a stupid moron anymore. And I am so happy about that. So in the beginning where I shout from the rooftops – you must read this! Please ignore. Save yourself. It is so not worth it.
Former science student finds true love in fiction, lands book deal
Susan Dennard always kind of figured she’d be researching and writing for a living, but in just a few short years, her subject matter has changed from halibut in the Canadian Arctic to zombies in Philadelphia during the last half of the 19th century—with some wildly successful and unexpected results.~
“I always wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know how,” Dennard said in an interview from her home in Germany. “I was a little naïve when I started and I thought it might be fairly easy. So I wrote a book and it was terrible. But you have to write a book in order to learn how.”
Her second stab was a little more successful. She pitched Something Strange and Deadly—the story of a 16-year-old girl in the City of Brotherly Love whose brother is kidnapped by rancid corpses who refuse to stay dead—to Harper Collins last year. The publisher agreed to a three-book series, a deal listed on one literary blog as one of the top six-figure young adult book deals of 2010. The first part is scheduled for release next summer.
“A lot of it is luck and timing,” Dennard said of the book, set in 1876 Philadelphia against the backdrop of the Centennial Exhibition, the first American World’s Fair. “I pitched the right idea to the right editor at just the right time.”
Dennard majored in English literature in her freshman year at the University of Georgia, but soon switched to science and took an introductory course with Dr. Fisk while he was still teaching there. When he came to GLIER, he recruited the Georgia native as a grad student.
“She was an excellent student who had a broad range of interests and skills that you don’t always find in science students,” said Fisk, who studies Arctic food webs and ecosystems. “I always knew that she’d be successful at whatever she chose to do.”
While a student here, she traveled to Cumberland Sound on the south end of Baffin Island to study the catch-per-unit effort of a commercial halibut fishery there. She published an article about her research in the academic Ice Journals of Marine Science.
“Cold,” she replied when asked what the experience was like. “It was fun though. I had never done anything quite so hard-core. And working with the Inuit was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Besides a master’s degree, Dennard also found a spouse in Windsor. She met Sebastien Jaeger, an automotive engineer originally from France, at a GLIER party and the two moved to Germany in 2009 to follow his career.
Even though she’s no longer working as a scientist, she has no regrets about the path she chose and in fact, said her time in Windsor contributed to her current success.
“I became a very disciplined worker,” she said. “A lot of it comes down to self-motivation and just getting it done, sitting down and doing the work. I write all day now. And there’s a certain amount of creative thinking required in science.”
Dennard continues to work on the second two instalments of her series, and is also co-authoring a new book she describes as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea meets Percy Jackson, the fictional central character in Rick Riordan’s Camp Half-Blood series.
Susan Dennard’s new book, published by Harper-Collins, will be launched next summer. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Plavich Photography.)