'State of Wonder' Deftly Twists, Turns Off the Map (I don't really like writing reviews, so please just read that one. I am in total agreement.)
This was one of those 2011 books on seemingly every "Best of" list, and deservingly so. The prose was classic Patchett: accessible, beautiful, lyrical. The characters were classic Patchett: otherworldly and achingly human at the same time; ordinary people in extraordinary situations that still managed to feel real; strong, complex female characters. The setting was classic Patchett: richly described, and equal parts enviable (I want to go to there!) and terrifying. Being a midwest native, I particularly loved how she described the cold winter prairie of Minnesota and the passion a true Midwesterner has for that oft-overlooked landscape. And leave it to Patchett to work the issue of medical ethics so seamlessly into the plot, which was full of adventure, mystery, and emotion.
Hopefully saying "classic Patchett" doesn't cheapen the singularity of this great book. More, I feel the need to remark on how frequently she's written incredible characters, settings, theme, and plots in her novels. This was a very different book than Bel Canto--one of my favorites--but her writing was just as great.
Have I sold you on this one yet? :) I can only hope that every book I read in 2012 is this fantastic.