ReadDavidson has picked Ann Patchett’s novel “State of Wonder” as this year’s townwide reading book. The program begins Friday with a live internet video chat with Ms. Patchett, and includes a variety of other events in the coming weeks.
Friday’s live webcast is open to the public at 1 p.m., at Community School of Davidson High School, 404 Armour St. in Davidson. Also there will be several high school English classes.
ReadDavidson encourages residents to read a book together and participate in free related events in September and October. All members of the community are invited to attend these free-of-charge events. The program started in 2007 as a partnership between the Davidson Public Library, Main Street Books, the Town of Davidson, and several local avid readers.
MONDAY, SEPT. 24, 7-8:30 p.m., Ada Jenkins Center, 212 Gamble St. – Alice Glines of The MURDOCK Study: “What is The MURDOCK Study and How Does It Relate to State of Wonder?” – Come learn more about The MURDOCK Study – Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Disease Of Cabarrus/ Kannapolis. It’s a long-term health study locally-based in Kannapolis, North Carolina at the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC). Partnering with Duke University, the MURDOCK Study is building a community registry of the local residents of Kannapolis and Cabarrus County and the surrounding region.
THURSDAY, OCT. 4, 7-8:30 p.m., Davidson Public Library, on the Village Green – Book Discussion with Davidson College professors Ann Fox (English) and David Wessner (biology), who who have team-taught an interdisciplinary course.
THURSDAY, OCT. 9, 12:30 p.m., Davidson College Sloan Music Center, Tyler-Tallman Hall – Davidson physics professor and opera singer Dan Boye discusses “Opera Carolina’s Tosca” – Opera is featured prominently in “State of Wonder.” Dr. Annick Swenson loves opera and other characters go to the opera house in Manaus, Brazil. Come hear Dan Boye, Physics Professor at Davidson College and Opera Carolina Performer, discuss the upcoming opera Tosca. We’ll also feature another Tosca cast member who will give a first-hand account of the world of opera.
MONDAY, OCT. 22, 2 p.m., The Pines at Davidson, 400 Avinger Lane – Tony Abbott Lecture – Come hear Davidson College English Professor Emeritus and poet Tony Abbott share his thoughts on “State of Wonder.”
“We are really excited about the line-up of this year’s events. We’re particularly thrilled that Ann Patchett has agreed to join us via webcast,” Cristina Shaul, ReadDavidson’s chair, said in a press release. “This is the first year since Ron Rash visited us in 2008 to discuss ‘One Foot in Eden’ that we’ve had an author participate in our program – it’s quite an honor.”
More info: www.townofdavidson.org/ReadDavidson.
“State of Wonder,” Ann Patchett’s New York Times bestselling and nationally-acclaimed novel is now available in paperback. In her most ambitious novel to date, Patchett takes readers to the lush, alluring, and transformative Amazonian rain forest. The story of one woman’s journey into a modern heart of darkness, State of Wonder measures the bounds of friendship, and explores both deeply personal and wider ethical questions about the choices we make in our lives.
Marina Singh is a forty-two-year-old doctor who, for reasons that come to light in the course of the novel, eschewed private practice for the safer cocoon of drug research. Working for a pharmaceutical giant in her native Minnesota, Marina has compartmentalized her life with a dispassionate sense of order. Her only small act of indiscretion, a quiet love affair with the starchy Mr. Fox, her company’s CEO, is itself the picture of propriety. Marina’s carefully constructed world is shaken, however, when her officemate and friend, Anders Eckman, is reported dead from a fever, contracted while investigating the company’s field work in the jungles of Brazil.
In a request freighted with emotional complexity, Mr. Fox asks Marina to travel to Manaus to ascertain the details of Anders’s death, and also to report on the progress of the jungle research being conducted by the brilliant, imperious Dr. Annick Swenson, who has been withholding pertinent information about the project. Marina is reluctant to go, not only because of the danger and discomfort of such a journey, but also because she has a complicated past connection with Dr. Swenson, once her much admired, if feared teacher in medical school. Still, she goes, both out of sense of duty to Mr. Fox and the company, and because she feels she needs to find an explanation for Anders’s unnecessary death for his wife and young sons.
Suffering the effects of an anti-malaria drug, Marina begins to have wild, frightening dreams that churn up unresolved childhood fears involving visits with her father in the crush of his native India. The dreams continue once she is in Manaus, where she tries to track down Dr. Swenson. Connected at last, Marina defies the rebuffs of the older woman—who exhibits no memory of any problematical past association with her erstwhile student—and travels upriver with the doctor to the camp where the research is being conducted. Accompanying them is a young, deaf, native boy—Easter—who wins Marina’s heart, as he apparently won Anders’s before her. Even the prickly Dr. Swenson is not immune to the intelligent boy’s considerable charms.
The research camp that Dr. Swenson has built among the Lakashi Indians proves a place both fearsome and wonderful, populated by exotic flora and fauna, infested with worrisome insects, and weighted by a canopy of oppressive heat and humidity. The carefully guarded drug study, Marina comes to learn, involves the bark of an indigenous tree that seems to extend the fertility of the Lakashi women, allowing them to conceive into late middle age. It could prove a scientific breakthrough with virtually unlimited profit potential for Marina’s firm. But Marina discovers some startling facts about Dr. Swenson’s research, and is faced with peril and impossible choices.
With lush, evocative prose, Ann Patchett vividly brings to life the dark, haunting, alien world of the jungle, a marked counterpoint to the spare, icy landscape that has shaped Marina’s cosseted perceptions. Patchett has wrapped a profound and moving exploration of large themes—courage, moral choices, the clash of cultures, friendship, love—around a gripping adventure story. STATE OF WONDER is a career-defining book for the writer the New York Times has called “generous, fearless, and startlingly wise.”