Category Archives: Book Review

Review: Lab Girl

Lab Girl

Lab Girl
By Hope Jahren
Knopf Publishing Group, 9781101874936, April 2016, 304pp.

The Short of It:

What I especially liked about Lab Girl is that it read more like a novel than a memoir, plus it’s filled with fascinating facts about dirt, trees, and plants of all kinds.

The Rest of It:

I’m not sure what I expected when I pitched this to my book club. We don’t read much non-fiction and science tends to be pretty interesting as long as it’s not too heavy on math or complicated formulas so I took a chance and pitched it and it was selected. However, I wasn’t able to  make the meeting that night due to my daughter’s volleyball banquet.  Sigh.

That said, I read it on my own and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Most of the book focuses on Jahren’s quest to run and maintain her own lab. She does this through various faculty appointments and mostly through grants. She touches on this a few times in the book because funding for science labs that do not produce an actual product, tend to be limited.

What does she study? Jahren is a geobiologist.

Geobiology is a field of scientific research that explores the interactions between the physical Earth and the biosphere.

It’s a relatively young field. Jahren’s lab partner steals the show, so to speak. Bill is not your typical scientist or maybe he is. Not sure. He’s entertaining but in a very gruff, humorous way. It’s apparent while reading that Bill is much more than a lab partner but never once did it “go there”. Bill is like a brother to her and that’s made pretty clear as she tells her story.

The book is split into three sections:

  • Roots & Leaves
  • Woods & Knots
  • Flowers & Fruit

Each section includes a bit of science but Jahren also manages to work in bits of life here and there. For example, Roots & Leaves details her early life and how she came to love science. She had a brief stint working in a hospital pharmacy and this part was especially interesting as she outlined the sterile procedure for preparing the medicated saline bags for patients. I’m telling you, fascinating stuff.

The only thing that I felt was missing was the struggle. Hope Jahren is an optimist and living up to her name.  Her story is told in a very hopeful, uplifting way. Bill brings a lot of humor to the more dire situations for sure but I felt like maybe some of the more difficult challenges were left out.

In any case, I enjoyed the book and if you like to learn while reading Lab Girl is a good one to pick up.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere
By Celeste Ng
Penguin Press, Hardcover, 9780735224292, September 12, 2017, 352pp.

The Short of It:

The essence of motherhood can be shown in so many ways, a photograph of a mother holding a child, a mother gazing through a window at a child who is no longer hers, a mother’s contempt for her own daughter. All these things come together in this beautifully told story.

The Rest of It:

The story opens with Izzy burning down her house. From the moment of conception, Mrs. Richardson knew that this child would be different from her other children and as Izzy grows into a young woman, Mrs. Richardson wonders if she will ever have a relationship with her that isn’t wrought with frustration and worry.

Izzy doesn’t get along with anyone in her family but does get along with Mia and her daughter, Pearl. Mia and Pearl are renters of a little apartment owned by Izzy’s family. Although they are renters, Pearl is more a part of the family than Izzy is, always hanging out at the main house with the other kids. Mia, a photographer by trade, makes ends meet by taking odd jobs and eating leftover takeout but she has a way with Izzy and even Izzy is surprised by this.

There are many stories within this novel as each character finds his or her way but ultimately, it’s a story about motherhood and what it means to be a family. As these characters interact with each other and their story lines begin to cross, secrets are revealed and they are forced to look closely at themselves in the mirror. We find out why Izzy burns the house down and somehow we can relate.

I really loved this beautifully written novel and it will most definitely be on my list of faves at the end of the year. Everything came together so beautifully. Not perfectly tied-up with a bow but realistically and with hope. I plowed through those final pages and then read the last page over and over again.

Have you read it? If not, I highly recommend it.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.