Book Review: State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite contemporary writers. I have happily read her fiction, nonfiction, essays, even interviews. I’ve read – and would highly recommend – her nonfiction works Truth & Beauty and What Now?, and I have loved, loved her novels: Bel Canto, Taft*, The Patron Saint of Liars, The Magician’s Assistant, Run. I await her new novels especially eagerly, which makes it all the more wonderful and miraculous that someone found a way to slip me an early copy of State of Wonder, which is being published officially this June.

*I did not love Taft; it’s the only novel of hers I haven’t read more than once. But I did like it.

Ann Patchett has a special wisdom about people, and a special talent for communicating that wisdom. Her fiction, to use a phrase I first heard from Julia Glass (another wonderful writer), has emotional truth. Here is the review of State of Wonder I posted to Goodreads (don’t worry, it doesn’t give anything away):

One of the things that most impresses me about all of Patchett’s books, this one included, is her total mastery of setting – and each book is set somewhere entirely different. It’s as if she has lived in each place she writes about for a whole lifetime each. State of Wonder, like The Magician’s Assistant, captures two utterly opposite settings (Minnesota and the Amazon jungle in State of Wonder; Los Angeles and Nebraska in Magician’s Assistant).

But setting is only the beginning, because Patchett is also a genius at character. She builds real people from the ground up, so that the reader understands and empathizes with each perfectly, and every thought they have and every action they take seems utterly consistent and logical with their character.

And as if lushly imagined settings and wisely created characters weren’t enough, there’s always a plot twist or three in there as well. Patchett’s books are written like Craftsman houses are built, with attention to every detail. This kind of architecture guarantees a long lifespan. Oh Ann, how do you do it? Bravo.

“In this life we love who we love. There were some stories in which facts were very nearly irrelevant.” (page 233)

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One response to “Book Review: State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

  1. Pingback: Best of 2011, Part the Third: Fiction (I) « Jenny Arch

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