I was really disappointed with this book. I loved Magician's Assistant and heard all the hype on this one and waited forever for it from the library and then read it and just felt UGHH. Everything, and I mean, everything in this novel is just too convenient and interconnected. It was well written and there are some beautiful moments; the story idea is interesting and the interpersonal stuff is not bad. BUT THE PLOT IS WAY TOO CONTRIVED AND EXPECTED AND JUST GARBAGE. Patchett has the ability to write books that don't need plot; but with this one she is just trying way too hard to cobble something together.
First, the good parts. As I said, some of her interpersonal writing is great.
I loved the insight into Marina and Mr. Fox's relationships through the delivery of the news to Karen. We get to see just how cowardly Mr. Fox is, just how much Marina bears the brunt of things, and this gives us some fore shadowing of the deterioration later.
I also thought Karen's comment about hope was great: "Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It's a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it."
Marina's character development was great; I felt like I could see her as some of my "good girl" friends: "Marina had been a very good student and a very good doctor and a very good employee and lover and friend and when someone asked her to do something she operated on the principle they had asked because it was important. She had succeeded in life because she had so rarely declined any request that was made of her."
But then, we find out that Marina knows Dr. Swenson and that in fact, Marina worshiped Dr. Swenson and also quit being an OBGYN because of a botched surgery in which Dr. Swenson was her direct supervisor. And from there, everything just gets too convenient. Marina lands in Manaus and her driver is the same guy that Swenson uses and he takes her to the store that Swenson shops at and they know the Bovenders who are staying at Swenson's house. Really? I mean really? This is a decent sized city (capital of the state of Amazonas population above 2 mil, I looked it up) and she very easily meets the only 4 people in the whole city who know Swenson? Yeah, maybe Milton met Swenson through Vogel and then introduced her to Rodrigo, but how come they also know Bovenders? How easy can this be?? Especially since Swenson is supposed to be hiding out.
Finally we discover that the real reason Swenson is hiding and is not trying to squeeze more resources out of Vogel (after all wouldn't the research go faster with more scientists and better lab equipment) is because she is trying to develop an anti-malaria drug as well as a fertility drug. AND SHE THINKS SHE HAS TO HIDE THIS? What? Why wouldn't Vogel want to produce an anti-malarial that is better than Larium? Even if they don't need to sell multiple doses, they can still charge a ton for the one pill. And, yeah there are people who need it and can't pay for it but there would be great PRESS for Vogel and they could sell the drug to governments to give to the underpriviledged and I REALLY COULDN'T SEE THEM BEING ANYTHING OTHER THAN ECSTATIC about the development of a second drug.
And well, from there it just snowballs in unbelievability. Swenson's baby dies just before Fox comes (so he gets to see her pregnant and buy some time, but then Marina is willing to stay a few extra days to do the c-section), Barbara Bovender spots Anders in the jungle and Marina gets to rescue him. And, she has the perfect trade: the resuscitated prince-boy of the Hummocas. Then, of course, she sleeps with Anders and ends up pregnant herself. And so, we have the potential for a very crappy sequel in which Anders and Marina have to explain themselves to Karen.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I just couldn't find it in me to look past the plot.