Dr. Annick Swenson is working in the Brazilian jungle on a drug that could change the lives of women beyond imagination. She is a difficult woman to deal with though and refuses to communicate with the pharmaceutical company financing her research, doesn’t share any of her findings and stays silent about any progress she might be making. Frustrated, the company sends out one of its researchers, Anders Eckman, to find doctor Swenson and get answers from her. Months later a short, uninformative letter reports that Eckman has died of a fever and has been buried.
Marina Singh was Eckman’s colleague and used to be a student of Dr. Swenson. Both the pharmaceutical company and Eckman’s wife are leaning on her to go to Brazil and find answers for them. The company still wants to know about the research they’re funding while the wife needs answers about her husbands death and funeral.
Reluctantly Marina, who is fighting her own demons, starts what will turn out to be a long journey, first to find her way to Dr. Swenson and then to find the answers her need.
But once she finds herself in the jungle things start changing for Marina. Her loyalties shift, her priorities change and if she does make it out of in the jungle in one piece she will be a different woman.
This is a fascinating book. I was intrigued by the characters and what they were facing from the very first page. Ann Patchett has a way with words that pushes me forward through the story. At several times I found myself torn between wanting to rush along in order to find out what was going to happen, where the story was leading, and wanting to take it slow so that I could give the wonderful words, sentences and constructions all the attention they deserved.
All sorts of questions are raised in this book; questions about motivation, about the rights and wrongs in living with and interfering in a different, less advanced community. We’re left wondering about obsession and whether the end always justifies the means.
This story and the issues it raises will stay for a long time, and I can see myself reading it again at some point in the future because I feel that in the end I did read it faster than I should have.