State of Wonder Summary & Study Guide

Ann Patchett
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State of Wonder Summary & Study Guide Description

State of Wonder Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

'State of Wonder' is an imaginative tale of mystery, morals, ethics, and the delicate balance that can exist within the world, both within a single ecosystem and within ourselves. Marina Singh, a doctor, is sent into the Amazon jungle to investigate the death of her coworker, and to check the progress of an ongoing research study, conducted by a mentor of hers, Dr. Swenson. However, Marina finds instead a puzzle in ethics, morality, and humanity that forces her to rethink her own positions in life and asks readers to do the same.

'State of Wonder' is the story of a woman, Marina Singh, on a journey to find a coworker, who through her efforts manages to find herself as well. Marina is a doctor, working as a pharmacologist in a lab for Vogel in Minnesota. Her coworker, send months ago into the Brazilian jungle to check on a research project, is reported as being deceased. His wife, Karen, and Marina's boss and lover, Mr. Fox, ask that she travel to Brazil to check both on what happened and on the research grant of Dr. Swenson. Marina, formerly a student of Swenson's, agrees but reluctantly, as she and Swenson have not spoken since an accident. After the accident that occurred while Marina was in residency under Swenson, Marina abandoned her major.

Once in the jungle, Marina finds that things are never as they appear. Swenson, now in her seventies, is working not only on a fertility drug that can reactivate the woman's menstruation and eggs after menopause, allowing them to have children late in life, but also on a drug made from the same compounds that can inoculate against malaria. She is using funding from Vogel to finance her drug, unbeknown to Vogel executives. Further, Marina struggles with the ethical and moral questions that arise from doing research on native cultures. Swenson has also made herself a test subject and is now pregnant. The other doctors at the facility have agreed to work on the project and Marina must choose between her employer and lover and a drug that can save millions. Simultaneously, in working with Swenson, Marina must face her past mistakes and come to an understanding of her own failures. She learns that not all choices are black and white.

When Marina is forced to choose between a child she loves, who was stolen from his own tribe by Dr. Swenson, and her lost coworker Anders, Marina begins to understand that morality and ethical consideration are often difficult and that no decision is ever without consequence. Her time with the Lakashi women teaches her that sometimes medical science should not try to improve on nature, and that simply because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be. As she assists Swenson in a C section to remove Swenson's own dead child, she understands that nature holds a delicate balance and that to damage that balance can be dangerous. By the end of the novel, Marina has learned that sometimes, to act in the best interest of nature, one should merely allow nature to function without intervention. 'State of Wonder' shows readers the delicate balance between ecosystems, ethics, morality, and self preservation and asks readers to evaluate their own beliefs.

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