While my relationship with Patchett has been hit or miss, with me loving some books and abandoning others, it didn’t take long for me to become interested in reading this one after all the rave reviews had come out. I love stories of survival and of exotic places, and just reading about the excitement that other reviewers felt for this book had me rushing out to get my own copy as soon as it was released. I let it linger for awhile, but it always stuck in the back of my mind as a book that I knew I was going to love and devour once I could make time for it. And I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I read this one over a busy weekend and carted it along with me to every outing, snatching bits of reading time here and there until I reached the final page. I exhausted my husband with the entire plot synopsis, and though his eyes glazed over, I just know he was fascinated. I mean, who wouldn’t be?
I was deliberately brief with my plot synopsis, as I think the less you know about this book going in, the better. What I will say is that although some of the plot points do stretch credulity, there was something about Patchett’s writing style and skill in relating her story that made even the most bizarre aspects of this tale seem believable. What it all boils down to is that there is a scientist in the jungle who is creating a drug that does some incredible things. Things that it may not be 100% right to be able to accomplish. This scientist has her own reasons for wanting to hide away and escape from her sponsors and benefactors, and she’s very good at it. In the name of science, lines are crossed and people are sacrificed. But what really stands out is the way that Patchett creates a fully realized atmosphere and setting. There were times I got hot and sticky just reading about the jungle where this all took place, and there were pulse-pounding moments of intelligent and pitch perfect intrigue and action, all revolving around the natives of the jungle, human and animal alike.
This is also a story of humans; their fallibility, their selfishness that is masked by altruism, and their utter belief that they can triumph over nature, when nature shows them otherwise several times a day. The characters were expertly created and they elicited so many varying emotions from me, from coldness and disbelief to a warm compassion and understanding that left me feeling almost vulnerable at times. I really liked that the characters were so rich and varied, and that even those with ulterior motives had their share of softer emotions. I even grew to like the disagreeable Dr. Swenson, when I thought that would never be possible. When push comes to shove, each of these characters believes that they are doing the right thing, despite clear indications to the contrary.
I was a little baffled by the end of the book because I felt that there was something that was hinted at that was not stated explicitly. Most of the time, ambiguous endings don’t bother me, but in this case, I was pondering and pondering once I had turned the last page. If anyone else has read this and would be interested in discussing it with me, let me know! Aside from that very small niggle, I thought the book was excellent and it kept me reading with anticipation and glee as the weird got weirder and the revelations and adventure came fast and furious. I think this is Patchett’s best book to date, and it’s certainly my favorite so far.
If you haven’t read this one yet and are in the mood for a tale that will grab hold of you and won’t put you down until that final page, this is the book you want to read. It tells a story that’s not only unique, but thrilling, and Patchett is at the top of her game in its construction and execution. This is one book that will go on my favorites list this year, and I’m so glad that I found the time for it. A very exciting and winning read. Highly recommended!