My book club voted to read this book, and since everyone has been raving about the audiobook, naturally I chose to borrow it from my local library.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I’m not sure I loved it as much as everyone else did, but when it came time to rate it on Goodreads, I had a hard time giving it any less than five stars.
Lab Girl is Hope Jahren’s memoir in which she talks about biology, her life, and the struggles of being a woman in a scientific field. The book is littered with information on plant biology, as well as stories and anecdotes from Jahren’s personal and professional lives.
To quote a former colleague of Jahren’s, she “crawled right out of the armpit of the Midwest.” She grew up in a small town who’s economy mostly depended on a slaughterhouse. It sounds like she didn’t want for much growing up, but her parents had grown up during the Great Depression and it had left its mark on them, especially her mother. Her parents were not great at expressing affection, and as a result, Hope isn’t so good at it herself, although it sounds like she’s trying to be better with her own family she’s started with her husband, Clint, who also happens to be a scientist.
The chapters on plant biology were fascinating, and I think that’s where Jahren’s narration really paid off. You can hear her wonder and love of her job in every word she speaks in this audiobook. Science and biology are truly her passions and it almost made me want to share that passion with her … almost.
Despite everyone raving about this book, I have to say my original hesitation in reading it remains: I don’t like science. Not only was it not my best subject, but biology was decidedly my worst subject ever. I can kind of understand math and chemistry because they involve logic, but biology? That’s just magic, dude. There’s no explaining that.
My favorite parts of this book were decidedly Hope’s interactions with her best friend, Bill. They met when he was a student and she was a TA of a biology class and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Bill has gone almost everywhere Hope has gone, and while she doesn’t have to worry about her own salary, she’s constantly struggling to get the funding to pay Bill’s salary, which has rarely been enough to live on.
Bill and Hope’s relationship is undoubtedly the most beautiful part of this book. If you haven’t read it, I’m not spoiling anything by telling you it is a purely platonic relationship. They immediately had a connection upon meeting, but at no point did I suspect there might be a romantic or a physical connection.
That said, they do share a sense of humor, the same set of priorities, a love of science and biology and, apparently, a love of each other. Writing this, I don’t think Hope explicitly said anywhere in the book that she loves Bill, but there’s no question. It’s evident in every anecdote and every joke they’ve shared. There’s more love between those two than a lot of married couples share.
I have mixed feelings when I hear about friendships like this one. On the one hand, I’m jealous. For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to get close friends to stick around in my life for more than a few years. I don’t have a best friend that I met in third grade and I doubt I will ever have a relationship like the one Hope has with Bill. On the other hand, it makes me happy just knowing those relationships are out there. I guess it gives me hope that one day I’ll find my Bill.
What did you guys read this week? Any other memoirs with a focus on a topic you would normally avoid?