State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett (New York: First Harper Perennial Olive Edition, 2014; originally published in 2012. 448 pp)

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. Notably, she has won the Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.

The Power of Story

Classically, the power of story resides in its ability to present a character that overcomes the odds. It might be the lowly knight that slays the dragon, the outcast in high school that gets the girl, the hard-working genius that pulls herself out of the standard stereotypes to be a difference maker in a powerful job.

Humanity, it seems, possesses an affinity for transformation. We want to see our characters move from point A to point B, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. Some transformations occur in action sequences—those slay-the-dragon moments. Others, emerge more slowly—that coming-of-age motif. Even when some storytellers subvert this tendency