Ann Patchett's new novel, "State of Wonder" starts slowly, but picks up speed soon enough. The author of "Bel Canto," "The Patron Saint of Liars," and "Run," is in fine form when describing a trip to the Amazon undertaken by the story's main character, Marina Singh. Marina goes there at the behest of her employer, who is the head of a pharmaceutical company. A research project deep within the jungle is taking too long but is potentially too lucrative to scrap. Marina needs to find out whether progress is being made, and whether the research shows promise. She also wants to learn what happened to her co-worker who was dispatched on the same mission before her. Replete with descriptions of birds, bugs, butterflies and bad dreams, "State of Wonder" is like real life: slow as a hot summer afternoon when nothing is happening and faster than lightning in a crisis. In true form, Patchett's ending leaves many issues to ponder and many threads to weave together as each reader prefers. Take this suggestion: if your book group chooses this title, make sure everyone has finished the book before you start the discussion. That's how powerful the ending is.
--Julie C., Headquarters