State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

I confess, I’m not sufficiently young to attend book discussions limited to young adult readers, and here I am in deep January, jonesin’ for some booktalk. So for next week’s library discussion group [not limited] for adults, I just finished Ann Patchett’s latest novel. Young adults would be a great addition to the discussion, of course, but regardless of anyone’s age, I am still interested to hear how people other than myself respond to the story’s themes, and to the author’s craft.

This book reminds me how many stories benefit from some blindness in the viewpoint character, whether that is a naiveté in a young person who hasn’t yet secured the worldly experience to become cynical, or in this case, an adult scientist still in thrall to an exceedingly confident former college professor. Where an author needs readers to ‘suspend disbelief’, a character capable of doing that can certainly ease the way.

With this book, I also experimented with a practice someone recommended on a blog post recently. Pen in hand, I copied out lines that struck my fancy for one reason or another. Shall I share? First, a couple that gave me a wicked grin, both spoken by lead scientist Dr. Annick Swenson.

“He refused to let his misery inform his actions.”  And

“All of the energy they could have put into their intelligence they had used to develop their tenacity.”

Um, hmm. Confident well on the way to cocky, aye?

Here’s one from a particularly adventurous moment on the Amazonian Rio Negro.

“…the smell of a furious reptile, an oily stench of putrid rage that sunk into the membranes of their nostrils as if it planned to stay there forever.”

Uh, yuk. Glad to be an armchair traveler.

And this, which simply disarmed me.

“In an instant the veil of insects lifted and Marina saw nothing as she’d never seen nothing before.”



About sidney woods

After a couple of practice novels, I'm now engrossed in an effort to create my first YA story, set in the tumultuous year of 1980. The best of YA stories fit my passion for reading that's worth something, so I think about those stories 'out loud' here.

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