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Melissa_W
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STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

Please use this thread for discussion of Chapters Ten - Eleven of State of Wonder and the novel as a whole.

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

This book was full of surprises at the end.  I was surprised when Mr. Fox showed up!  While I understand that he and Marina’s relationship was not public, he did not seem very warm toward her.  Had he been setting Marina up to go check on Dr. Swenson?  I can’t help but wonder.

 

It was sad to read that Dr. Swenson’s baby died in the womb.  It was probably for the best though.  Did we ever find out who the father was?  Dr. Swenson literally risks her life for the malaria vaccine when she refuses to go to the hospital to have a c section.  I guess, in a way, she had been risking her life for the malaria vaccine for many years.  Living in the jungle is risky and so was her plan to keep her work hidden from Mr. Fox.

 

There must be significance to Dr. Swenson’s child being born with Mermaid Syndrome.  I wonder if it was a side effect of the drug she was working on?  None of the other doctors had children, so there were no other reported cases.  We didn’t read of Mermaid Syndrome being present in the natives.  I guess that is one unanswered question.

 

Anders!  Alive!  Wow!  Shocking!  I didn’t figure out the white man Barbara Bovender saw was Anders.  I had to wait until the characters in the book figured it out and told me.  Did anyone else guess it was Anders?

 

The exchange of Anders for Easter was heart breaking.  I have to agree with Anders that it was the only way.  I found it ironic that Dr. Swenson, Anders, and Marina all considered him to be their boy, but, in the end, he went back to his people.

 

Is there no end to Dr. Swensons’ meddling?  She told Easter’s people that he was dead!  Wow!  She assumed that his people would not want him because he was deaf.  Clearly, from the emotion showed by his parents upon his return, that wasn’t true.  I think this is tied to one of the big questions posed by the book --- how much should scientists studying native people interfere in their lives?

 

The only scene that I had trouble with in the whole book was Marina and Anders making love upon his return to the camp.  I understand that it was meant to show the heightened emotion present at the time of their reunion.  However, I just did not find it believable.  It didn’t sit right with me.

 

I thought this was a fantastic story!  Not only did I enjoy the narrative, I especially liked the big moral issues posed during the book.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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optic_i
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

I agree with everything you said too. I finished the book last night, wow what an ending!  I never saw that coming. I love books that keep me going OMG! This one was like that in every section ! Loved it. 

 

Yes, I think it was for the best that Dr. Swenson's baby didn't make it. Even though it was very sad for her to go through that.Your right their was no mention of Mermaid syndrome in the tribes women and they were having children at Dr. Swenson's age. So it would lead me to believe it was a side effect of the drug too. 

 

I can't think of the significance for the baby having Mermaid Syndrome, but somehow I think their is one. So much of this book is like that. Primordial everything came from the sea. 

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optic_i
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

Oh yeah, What a shock ! Anders is alive !  

 

I didn't make the connection of the white man either,  Good thing Marina did !  But I remember Karen not thinking he was dead, I just thought it was shock and she would except his death in the Amazon over time.  

 

The connection Easter had with everyone was interesting. Both Anders & Marina wanted to bring him back to Minn. and adopt him. Dr. Swenson really did mess things up for Easter. I am just not sure if she cared, she seemed to think Easter was better off with her after she made him well.I don't think she put any effort in seeing if they would want Easter back. But then again, they were a hostile tribe towards the Lakashi. Perhaps she did think they didn't want him. So she gave him status in the Lakashi tribe, teaching him to drive the boat. I think in her way, Dr. Swenson was fond of him and did like the idea that she was his mother. 

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optic_i
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

The most shocking for me was when Marina had to make the heart breaking decision to trade Easter for Anders. The look of fear in Easters 's eyes, as he was lifted out of the boat and given to his parents. He didn't know why it was happening, they couldn't tell him quickly so he could understand. He was deaf. Even though I think he would still have been terrified, he didn't know who they were. He just knew Anders.  

 

I can only hope that because he is such a smart kid. He will find his way to see Dr. Swenson & the Lakashi tribe again. Perhaps become a boat Captain and guide tribe members from( both tribes.) Perhaps even visit Milton & The Bovenders in Maneus. Maybe pick up & help sick Dr.s and Students along the river and get them on a plane home before it's too late. Kind of like Milton but on the River.

 

 I do think that Easter's parents love him. I also hope Easter will be around to help Dr.Swenson in her old age. I don't think she will ever leave the Amazon. I also hope Easter can visit Anders & Marina in Minn.  

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optic_i
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

Yes I was disappointed by Anders & Marina sleeping together after they left Easter with the Tribe. 

 

Just not what I would think would be on their minds. Hasn't Anders been thinking about his family everyday since he reached the Amazon? Marina also always thought she was finding Anders for Karen & the boys. Even when she thought he was dead. I don't think of either of them being so careless.  

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streamsong
Posts: 118
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

So we are to believe that Marina is carrying Anders' child.

 

Phooey.

 

The book just did not work for me. I know it was nominated for a lot of prizes last year, but I guess I'm in the minority.

 

I also work in a research lab and the science was off, so the premise was off and then there were the huge string of coincidences at the end.

 

It felt like a debut novel to me with far too many loose ends and bad research (on lots of levels!)

 

 

 

 

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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven


optic_i wrote:

Oh yeah, What a shock ! Anders is alive !  

 

I didn't make the connection of the white man either,  Good thing Marina did !  But I remember Karen not thinking he was dead, I just thought it was shock and she would except his death in the Amazon over time.  

 

 


The author did plant the thought in our head that Anders was still alive, via Karen.  However, no one else in Minnesota believed it.  I thought it was possible he was still alive until the evidence in the jungle seemed to indicate he was dead.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven


optic_i wrote:

The most shocking for me was when Marina had to make the heart breaking decision to trade Easter for Anders. The look of fear in Easters 's eyes, as he was lifted out of the boat and given to his parents. He didn't know why it was happening, they couldn't tell him quickly so he could understand. He was deaf. Even though I think he would still have been terrified, he didn't know who they were. He just knew Anders.  

 

I can only hope that because he is such a smart kid. He will find his way to see Dr. Swenson & the Lakashi tribe again. Perhaps become a boat Captain and guide tribe members from( both tribes.) Perhaps even visit Milton & The Bovenders in Maneus. Maybe pick up & help sick Dr.s and Students along the river and get them on a plane home before it's too late. Kind of like Milton but on the River.

 

 I do think that Easter's parents love him. I also hope Easter will be around to help Dr.Swenson in her old age. I don't think she will ever leave the Amazon. I also hope Easter can visit Anders & Marina in Minn.  


I do think Easter will visit Dr. Swenson via boat.  Maybe he can even serve as a peace emmisary.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Fozzie
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven


streamsong wrote:

So we are to believe that Marina is carrying Anders' child.

 

Phooey.

 

The book just did not work for me. I know it was nominated for a lot of prizes last year, but I guess I'm in the minority.

 

I also work in a research lab and the science was off, so the premise was off and then there were the huge string of coincidences at the end.

 

It felt like a debut novel to me with far too many loose ends and bad research (on lots of levels!)

 

 

 

 


Of course we had to wonder if Marina would become pregnant with Anders' child.  Seems unbelievable, given their personalities.  Maybe the encounter was meant to show how much they had both changed in the jungle.  Anyway, minus that scene, I thought it was a great story.

 

I am sorry the book did not work for you.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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streamsong
Posts: 118
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

I'm not sorry to have read it. I read a lot :smileyhappy: and some just don't hit the right spot.

 

I had been meaning to read this one since it was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize for Medicine in Literature in 2011. There's a real disconnect somewhere by the prize committee since most of the negative reviews I read after finishing the book last night seem to be because of the scientific and medical errors.

 

 

 

 

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optic_i
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

Yes the ending really felt a bit flat. I can also see how the science had gaps, and I am not a Professional like you and Melissa are. I also think that author could have done better to get the research right. It's an interesting premise with a rogue brilliant scientist in the Amazon. Somehow I keep thinking of all the insurance companies and that Mr... Fox and Vogel would be on the firing line.  

Melissa_W
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Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

Sorry I'm a bit behind - a big week for deadlines last week. 

 

I wrote on my Goodreads review that as much as I love Patchett's words and sentence-level construction her books always leave me wanting.  Like the whole Marina-and-Anders-have-sex-just-once-then-everyone-goes-home plot point.  I still don't quite understand why she felt it was necessary to have her characters do that and unlike Bel Canto there isn't an epilogue to tie-up or reflect on last-minute plot activities.

 

I wish she hadn't chosen such a rare - extremely rare, so rare that Marina actually comments on how rare it is (likely less than 1 in 100,000 live births, and more common in identical twins than singletons) - birth defect like sirenomelia.  In a book of fantastical happenings, did the reader really need yet another?  In an older woman, it would be far more common to have a birth defect from chormosomal abnormalities like Trisomy 21 (Down's syndrome).  I think it would have been better to have a more common cause of intrauterine demise rather than the spectacularly rare.

 

Dr. Swenson definitely has a god-complex.


Fozzie wrote:

This book was full of surprises at the end.  I was surprised when Mr. Fox showed up!  While I understand that he and Marina’s relationship was not public, he did not seem very warm toward her.  Had he been setting Marina up to go check on Dr. Swenson?  I can’t help but wonder.

 

It was sad to read that Dr. Swenson’s baby died in the womb.  It was probably for the best though.  Did we ever find out who the father was?  Dr. Swenson literally risks her life for the malaria vaccine when she refuses to go to the hospital to have a c section.  I guess, in a way, she had been risking her life for the malaria vaccine for many years.  Living in the jungle is risky and so was her plan to keep her work hidden from Mr. Fox.

 

There must be significance to Dr. Swenson’s child being born with Mermaid Syndrome.  I wonder if it was a side effect of the drug she was working on?  None of the other doctors had children, so there were no other reported cases.  We didn’t read of Mermaid Syndrome being present in the natives.  I guess that is one unanswered question.

 

Anders!  Alive!  Wow!  Shocking!  I didn’t figure out the white man Barbara Bovender saw was Anders.  I had to wait until the characters in the book figured it out and told me.  Did anyone else guess it was Anders?

 

The exchange of Anders for Easter was heart breaking.  I have to agree with Anders that it was the only way.  I found it ironic that Dr. Swenson, Anders, and Marina all considered him to be their boy, but, in the end, he went back to his people.

 

Is there no end to Dr. Swensons’ meddling?  She told Easter’s people that he was dead!  Wow!  She assumed that his people would not want him because he was deaf.  Clearly, from the emotion showed by his parents upon his return, that wasn’t true.  I think this is tied to one of the big questions posed by the book --- how much should scientists studying native people interfere in their lives?

 

The only scene that I had trouble with in the whole book was Marina and Anders making love upon his return to the camp.  I understand that it was meant to show the heightened emotion present at the time of their reunion.  However, I just did not find it believable.  It didn’t sit right with me.

 

I thought this was a fantastic story!  Not only did I enjoy the narrative, I especially liked the big moral issues posed during the book.


 

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Melissa_W
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

Yeah, I had trouble with some of the methodology, too.  They don't have the right types of people down there to figure out the interaction of the Rapps and the Martins.  If they know that it's something to do with the sap, and they can find the compound in tissues, why not start trying to work out the molecule structure?  And conferring temporary immunity through breast-milk and then the same compound "inoculating" women starting at menarche?  Immunobiology isn't my specialty but that's really odd.

 

I couldn't really tell from the last few pages if we're meant to understand Marina was pregnant.  At 42 it would be possible that she hadn't yet entered menopause but there was never any mention of Marina having a menstrual cycle or needing/deciding not to take birth control (unless I missed something).

 


streamsong wrote:

So we are to believe that Marina is carrying Anders' child.

 

Phooey.

 

The book just did not work for me. I know it was nominated for a lot of prizes last year, but I guess I'm in the minority.

 

I also work in a research lab and the science was off, so the premise was off and then there were the huge string of coincidences at the end.

 

It felt like a debut novel to me with far too many loose ends and bad research (on lots of levels!)

 

 

 

 


 

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Melissa_W
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The Rapp/Swenson short story

If your edition contained the Rapp/Swenson short story, what did you think of it?

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
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chadadanielleKR
Posts: 368
Registered: ‎10-29-2006

Re: STATE OF WONDER: Chapters Ten - Eleven

As for me, I didn't think that Marina was meant to become pregnant: did she? I still wonder.  I enjoyed the book, reading about scientific researches conducted in the "middle of nowhere". I am disappointed to discover through your posts that the procedures were not very realistic. But nevertheless the book made me wonder about life as a Westerner among the Amazonian tribes.

I wonder how Dr. Eckman survived for three months with the Hummocca and I would have liked to read more about that.

I agree, the end of the book could have been better but I have been under the narrative's spell for quite a while: the Amazonian forest's spell!

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chadadanielleKR
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Re: The Rapp/Swenson short story

Where's that suppose to be?

Melissa_W
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Re: The Rapp/Swenson short story

It was at the end of the readers' guide in the HarperCollins paperback PS edition.  I think she originally wrote it for a magazine.  I'll try and find a link for you.


chadadanielleKR wrote:

Where's that suppose to be?


 

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Melissa_W
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Studies in Modern Mycology (short story in the Washington Post)

Ok, I finally found it (didn't help that I couldn't remember the correct title).

 

Studies in Modern Mycology: Not all discoveries should be shared

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
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Ryan_G
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The Novel as a Whole

I can't think about this book without being a little sad.  Marina is such an emotionally damaged character that I can't help but feel sorry for her.  She quit a promising career in gynecology/obstetrics after an accident left her doubting her ability.  She changes to pharmacology, a decision that will keep her from ever having to deal with patients, and ends up working for a pharmaceutical company where she studies cholesterol.  When the aerogram from Brazil comes and announces the death of Dr. Eckman in the jungles of the Amazon basin, Marina reacts to it but there is still an emotional disconnect.  She is the one that Mr. Fox takes with him to brake the news to the wife.  A wife Marina never got to know despite the length of time she worked with Dr. Eckman or how close they became in the lab.  Up to this point Marina has held everyone at arms length.  She can't even call her lover by his first name.  Throughout the book, she simply calls him Mr. Fox.

When Mr. Fox and Karen Eckman finally convince Marina to go down to Brazil to discover what happened to Anders, she must confront the past in order to deal with what is going on.  She never really wakes up as a person until she has been at the jungle lab for a few weeks.  She starts to make connections with the doctors, members of the Lakashi tribe that the researchers are studying, but most importantly with a young boy named Easter.  What cemented this idea in my head is that she starts using people's first names, they no longer  are just Dr. or Mr. or a number.  She even uses Mr. Fox's first name in a few letters back to him.  I don't think Marina is ever happier that when she was in the jungle, even though she tried everything she could to convince herself of the opposite.

It's that awakening of the human soul that makes the ending of this book so tragic for me.  While I guess you could call the ending a "happy" one, I'm not so sure about that.  The ending takes place at such a frantic pace that I don't think Marina is thinking anymore, she's just reacting and going with the flow.  She stops growing and almost becomes the stunted human being she was in the beginning.  I would like to think that Dr. Swenson's prediction of what Marina will do happens.  I would like to think that she will return to the research lab and take over for Dr. Swenson once she is gone.  I would like to think that the decision to leave someone behind to save someone else, will weigh on her mind and force her to go back.  I would like to think that actions of the last 15 pages don't have consequences that none of them saw coming.  I would like to think that Rapps falling into the river will simply disappear and not start a war between tribes.  I have so many hopes for what happens after the book ends, but I'm afraid some of those hopes will be dashed.  I have a sinking feeling that once Marina is back in Minnesota that she will find herself walling people off once again.  I think she will continue to make bad decisions for herself.  I hope she doesn't, I hope I'm wrong.  I hope in a few years, Dr. Marina Singh will be living the life she deserves.

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