Lab Girl

by katystreet

By Hope Jahren.

Lab Girl is about a scientist. Or rather, a woman who struggled to become and stay a scientist. Or maybe it’s about trees. Actually, I think it’s about friendship. Or just a very strange man called Bill. It’s a bit about manic depression, and climate change, and being a parent.

It’s a wonderful read.

At book club we talked a lot about Bill — Hope’s friend, counterpart, and constant companion. Did we know a ‘Bill’? Many of us did. We all seemed to like and respect ‘Bill’s, but none of us were one, we think. For me, the phrase of the book that best described Hope’s relationship with Bill was fraternal twin. Someone who you’re connected to in an incredibly deep manner, deep as in low-level, subconscious, pre-sexual.

The parts of the book about plants were wonderful almost-scientific reads, beautiful in a way that made me want to study plants. (Though I get that kind of adoration about almost anything presented to me.) Those parts were written poetically, with emphasis on the visual and the sensual and the metaphorical. They were analogies for the chapter to follow. A hint, or a fun story-with-larger-moral.

So much of the book is about struggle, yet Hope is wildly successful, winning awards and grants and obviously a book deal. It’s interesting that the successes she focuses on are small: getting Bill a reliable salary, getting a lab of her own, getting through her pregnancy. Perhaps the other ones are secondary.

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