State of Wonder

by Ann Patchett

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State of Wonder Characters

The main characters in State of Wonder are Dr. Marina Singh, Dr. Annick Swenson, and Dr. Anders Eckman.

  • Dr. Marina Singh is a forty-two-year-old Indian American pharmacologist who is sent to Brazil by her employer, the Vogel pharmaceutical company, to obtain a report on Dr. Swenson’s research.
  • Dr. Annick Swenson lives among the Lakashi people in the Amazon rainforest, where she has developed a revolutionary new fertility drug and become pregnant at age seventy-three.
  • Dr. Anders Eckman is Marina and Dr. Swenson’s colleague. He is presumed dead after disappearing into the jungle, but Marina later locates him alive among the Hummoccan tribe.


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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 826

Dr. Marina Singh

The protagonist of State of Wonder is Dr. Marina Singh. She is forty-two years old and works in statin development for Vogel, a pharmaceutical company. For the last several months, she has been involved romantically with Mr. Fox, the CEO of Vogel, and just as their relationship appears to be gathering momentum, he sends her to Brazil to learn more about the mysterious circumstances of the death of her colleague Dr. Anders Eckman. While Marina is in Brazil, she must also complete the task Dr. Eckman left unfinished at the time of his death: he had traveled to find the elusive Dr. Annick Swenson and gain insight into her work on a fertility drug at an unnamed location in the Amazon rainforest. Marina’s journey to Manaus and travels into the Amazon rainforest to understand more about Anders’s death and Dr. Swenson’s research becomes a path of self-discovery as she comes to terms with memories of her own painful past.

Dr. Annick Swenson

Dr. Annick Swenson lives with the Lakashi tribe in the Amazon rainforest, where she has established a research station. At seventy-three years of age, having experimented with the fertility drug she is currently developing, she is pregnant with her first child. Her manner is straightforward and brusque, disguising her capacity for deep emotional attachment. Dr. Swenson and Marina have a shared history; Marina was a student of Dr. Swenson’s at medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Dr. Swenson first arrived in the Amazon fifty years prior, as the student and mistress of Dr. Martin Rapp, a Harvard ethnobotanist for whom the special trees on which the Lakashi women chew are named.

Dr. Anders Eckman

Dr. Anders Eckman works with Marina in the same lab at Vogel, and they have been friends for many years. Like Marina, Anders is in his forties. He and his wife, Karen, are happily married, and they have three sons. He is a keen birder, so when Mr. Fox asks him to travel to the Amazon to obtain a report on Dr. Swenson’s progress, Anders is eager to see the birds of the Amazon and complies. When he arrives, he develops a bond with Easter, the young deaf Hummoccan boy who accompanies Dr. Swenson everywhere she goes. While in the jungle, however, Anders is stricken with a serious fever; in his confusion, he wanders away from the research station one night, never to return, which leads Dr. Swenson and her team to believe that he has died.

Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox, the CEO of Vogel, is under pressure to deliver news of the revolutionary new fertility drug on which Dr. Swenson is working. He is in his sixties, and he is in a secret relationship with Marina. Mr. Fox asks Marina to travel to the Amazon to learn more about Anders’s death and to bring back a report of Dr. Swenson’s progress. Though Mr. Fox is concerned about Marina and her safety, he appears equally concerned with the fertility drug that is in development. When Mr. Fox appears in the Amazon at Dr. Swenson’s research station, Marina becomes unsure about her feelings for him.


Easter is a young boy from the Hummoccan tribe who is deaf, and Dr. Swenson first meets him when he is brought to her for medical attention due to a serious illness. His condition at this time is very severe, and when his family comes to retrieve him, he is not well enough to leave Dr. Swenson’s care. Dr. Swenson is unable to communicate Easter’s condition to the family members, so she tells them...

(This entire section contains 826 words.)

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that Easter has died. He has lived with Dr. Swenson and the Lakashi ever since. Easter has a special warmth and an ability to comfort others; Marina, like Anders before her, bonds with Easter and secretly plans to bring Easter back to Minnesota. At the end of the novel, when Marina trades Easter for Anders, Easter cannot understand why he is being left with a tribe he doesn’t know; the Hummoccan tribe, however, is his family, and they welcome him home.

Barbara and Jackie Bovender

Barbara and Jackie Bovender are a young and attractive Australian couple in their twenties. Dr. Swenson has hired them to live in her apartment in Manaus and to ensure that no one who comes to Manaus in search of Dr. Swenson is able to locate her. They live a bohemian lifestyle; Jackie is a surfer, and Barbara is writing a novel. Jackie and Barbara prevent Marina from gaining access to Dr. Swenson, just as they prevented Anders and other researchers and scientists who traveled to Brazil to locate Dr. Swenson. Though Barbara makes life difficult for Marina, she also helps Marina at a time of need: she brings Marina a shaman’s cure when Marina is feverish and sick, and this gesture leads to genuine friendship between the two women.