Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Whole World in a Book

Book club member Cynthia Robinson enjoys the discussion of Ann Patchett's State of Wonder during a meeting of the Mayor's Book Club, held at the Louisville Free Public Library.

Photographs flashed across a projector screen. A dull-gray sloth, a lush rainforest, a tribal woman in a sack dress and red face paint — each image flickered into the Centennial Room of the Louisville Public Library on York Street for about 10 seconds, transporting the members of the Mayor’s Book Club to the edges of the Amazon, before slowly fading away.

A dozen men and women sat in a scattered circle, each leafing through a copy of State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. It’s a story about a pharmaceutical company employee who journeys to Brazil to bring back information about drug research being conducted in the jungle by a mysterious doctor. Even more important, she is charged with recovering the personal effects of a colleague who died there under mysterious circumstances.

“This is something that reads as if it is real, but I found myself looking up photos of the people and tribes Patchett mentions and realizing that they are all made up,” Kelly Dunnagan, the facilitator of this month’s energetic meeting, says with a chuckle. She pushes her auburn hair away from her eyes before continuing, “She really has a great imagination.”

That blur between fact and fiction (all with a healthy dose of exoticism) is one of the things that intrigued the Mayor’s Book Club readers; before the meeting, one woman had even Googled the ‘Lakashi tribe’ of Brazil, only to realize that Patchett named the fictitious group after her favorite breakfast cereal.

State of Wonder is part of the library’s “Read Your Way around the World” book series, which features other titles such as I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

The Mayor’s Book Club meets at the Main Library on the third Wednesday of the month, from noon to 1p.m. Brown-bag lunches are welcome.

– Ashlie Stevens

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