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Ann Patchett is probably one of the best best-selling fiction writers (of literary fiction, not popular) but still least known novelist out there. When one looks back at her body of work. Patron Saint of Liars, Bel Canto, Run, writer of acclaimed nonfiction and editor of short stories, with her most recent novel State of Wonder, I try to think back on whether you could call her "famous."
Drop her name at a book club and you might get a nod and a "oh yeah, I loved Bel Canto" but most people can't quite place her. Almost as prolific as Anita Shreve (The Pilot's Wife) and not as trendy as the historical fiction writers Kathryn Davies and Geraldine Brooks, Patchett is a rare bird in that her books span genres, themes and continents. If anything, they all take you away.
State of Wonder transports us from Minnesota to Manaus in the heart of the Amazonian jungle, and the juxtaposition of cold and practical to tropical and unpredictable is a perfect analogy for her farflung characters.
Just as Bel Canto told a story of "normal" people facing their real nature in unnatural settings, State of Wonder demonstrates the depths of love and devotion beyond blood ties and the practicalities of life when one is placed on unfamiliar footing. Patchett is a master of setting, and her research is deep enough to make you believe you are there without becoming tiresome.
Like Bel Canto, State of Wonder is a must-read, difficult to put down and well-written - a story of a woman who is taken to the edge of and back, and survives on her own wits while discovering a love she never knew she had inside her.
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My dog Tucker, protesting Uggie's shutout