I want to start this entry with admiting that this book review is going to seem very wishy washy. The truth is I didn’t love this book. But I wanted to. I wanted to love it because Ann Patchett is a very good writer. I am kind of an “author stalker” and I tend to give a lot of rope to writers that have moved me once or twice before. She did that with “Bel Canto” and “Run”, but this novel fell a little short for me.
This is a story that raises ethical questions about the medical industry which is a topic that is very interesting. It is told from the point of view of a young Minnesota doctor, Marina Singh.
I think my main issue with the book is that it took a long time to get to point. After a very long set up the novel follows the journey of Marina who works for a drug company. One of her colleagues is mysteriously killed and she is asked to travel to the Amazon to find out what happened to him and to track down the star research doctor, Annika Swenson.
One of the reasons I kept with the book is that I really liked the character of the star researcher Dr. Swenson. I liked HER but she wasn’t very likeable. She is driven by her desire to find a drug for fertility and during this research she stumbles upon a cure for malaria. Relentless and hard driving she is the type of person who will do whatever it takes to get the job done including ignoring her employer.
She is also painted as one of those people clearly lacking in social skills. You know the type. She gets great lines. At one point in the book she says to Marina: “I keep hoping that you are more than you show yourself to be Dr. Singh. I am just on the verge of liking you.”
If this book becomes a movie, I want to play Dr. Swenson.
At the end of the day, even if the book is slow, if the writer is good and there are good characters it can hold my interest. It all wraps up with a bang and there is a spoiler ending. I think it will make for good book club discussions, just be prepared that it’s no “Bel Canto”.
I give it a 3 out of 5 for good writing and good characters. State of wonder: “I was just on the verge of liking you!”