Friday, February 17, 2012

State of Wonder

We've read Ann Patchett's work before, Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant, and both books were appreciated.  Bel Canto even garnered the oh so coveted Seattle Girls Book Group Favorite Book of the Year title.  It truly is an honor that all authors aspire to achieve, well perhaps that may be overstating it a bit, but you catch my drift.  This is an author that we as a group have liked and are willing to keep reading her work.  I will tell you this isn't the case with all the authors.  I do recall hearing a statement regarding a different author (who will remain unnamed) "I'll never give her another *bleep* moment of my life... EVER!" um... ouch.

State of Wonder is the story of Dr. Marina Singh, a researcher for a pharmaceutical development company, who is sent to the deepest jungle in Brazil to track down a doctor who has been conducting research regarding a possible infertility product.  She doesn't really know where she's going, and her friend and colleague who was sent before her has died doing what she is now being asked to do.

In tracking down the doctor, discovering the status of the research and the details about her lost friend Dr. Singh has to face many issues, the jungle, an intimidating and ruthless head of research, the reality of life in the jungle with a tribe of people with different customs, no common language and the ethics of what is right vs. how things are 'supposed' to be done.

During our discussion, we talked a lot about the story, the plot, certain pivotal events and we were very sad that not everyone finished the book. There's a LOT that happens in the last third of the book and we couldn't discuss anything without giving it all away.

Our discussion quickly turned to a discussion regarding the concept of eliminating infertility.  The question was, what if we had the medical technology to enable women to have a baby at any age?  What would the implications be and who gets to decide how old is too old to have a baby?   Don't look at this for an answer, it was a general discussion with no concrete answers although we did agree that the doctor that facilitated the Octo-mom nightmare acted irresponsibly.

We also discussed and wondered about the level of research Ms. Patchett conducted as she wrote this book.  Beth said that she watched an interview that said that the author spent ten days on the Amazon doing research, but it wasn't clear what if any research she did on the medical aspects of the book.

There was some need to suspend disbelief regarding the subject matter, as some of it conflicted with biology lessons from junior high regarding the female fertility infrastructure (wow, that seems like the wrong word.)  Some of our readers also felt that the twists and turns were heavily foreshadowed and that they weren't shocked or surprised by any of the events in the book.  However, we mostly felt it was an enjoyable read, certainly not as ethereal as Bel Canto, but likable none the less.