Six novelists were named as contenders for the 17th annual award of a prize dedicated to excellence in fiction written by women.
Three American writers were named: Patchett, Madeline Miller and Cynthia Ozick, who, at 84, is the oldest writer to have been shortlisted. There was one Briton, Georgina Harding, an Irish writer, Anne Enright, and the Canadian Esi Edugyan.
Joanna Trollope, chair of the judging panel, said: "This is a shortlist of remarkable quality and variety. It includes six distinctive voices and subjects, four nationalities and an age range of close on half a century. It is a privilege to present it.
"My only regret is that the rules of the prize don't permit a longer shortlist. However, I am confident that the 14 novels we had to leave out will make their own well-deserved way."
Patchett won the prize 10 years ago for Bel Canto. That caused surprise in some quarters, but there would be far less surprise should State of Wonder triumph. Set in the Amazonian rainforest, it is an epic, gripping tale of science and memories based around a drug that could change women's lives forever.
Another heavyweight on the list is former Booker prize winner Enright. She is shortlisted for The Forgotten Waltz, which tells the story of Gina and the calamitous affair she has with Sean.
Harding is nominated for her third novel, Painter of Silence, set in postwar Romania, telling the story of Iasi, an artistically gifted deaf and mute man who turns up near death's door on the steps of a hospital.
Edugyan is shortlisted for Half Blood Blues, which also featured on last year's Man Booker shortlist. It tells the story of black jazz musicians in Nazi-occupied Paris.
Miller is shortlisted for her debut, The Song of Achilles, set in Greece in the age of heroes, telling the moving story of the love between Achilles and Patroclus.
Ozick completes the list with Foreign Bodies, the story of Bea Nightingale, who finds her self middle-aged and alone in a poor part of 1950s New York.
The overall winner will be announced on 30 May at a ceremony in London's Royal Festival Hall.