Lab Girl: a triumph

One of the best books I’ve read in years: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

Jahren is a geochemist, geobiologist, and a brilliant writer. This autobiography weaves the life story of trees (among other green things) around the story of the author’s life. Both stories are full of miracles, some small, some breathtakingly massive.

Once you open this book, your life and decisions are not really yours again until you close it.

At first I found myself trying to speed through the science to get to the lyrical, hilarious, heartbreaking human stuff. Then Jahren grabbed me and hypnotized me, and pretty soon I could not completely separate the lives of plants from the lives of humans. She brought me right alongside her as she searched for answers. I followed her as she was digging holes, roaming the country, pulling all-nighters in the lab, trying to shut down the frightening voices in her head, learning, failing, falling in love.

When at first I tried to hurry to the personal narrative, I could feel that all over the world there were other people doing just the opposite — moving faster through her life in order to see the majesty of oak trees and the resolute nature of seeds. Somehow, Jahren wrote a beautiful book that pulls all of us into her world, whether we are one who is twitchy if we get too far from urban zip codes, or leaf worshipers like her. Early on in the book we give in and let her take us wherever she is going.

The story line tracing the relationship between Jahren and her lab assistant, Bill, is brilliant; as close to perfect as I have seen in print.

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