Friday, August 12, 2016

Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

The book's cover and a picture of the author Lab Girl should have been the kind of book I like: a deeply personal autobiography. Hope Jahren writes well, also, and in 14 chapters goes through about 20 years of her life, from the moment she decided she would be a scientist to the moment when she was actually accepted as a full professor by academia. She talks about her Norwegian family education, about the tough mother that never gave her the kind of love she yearned for, she talks about misogyny in science, about deep feelings for her friends, she talks about her bipolar disorder and her pregnancy. Between chapters she interposes a short story about plants, mostly trees, as metaphors for personal growth. And she is an introvert who works and is best friends with a guy who is even more an introvert than she is. What is not to like?

And the truth is that I did like the book, yet I couldn't empathize with her "character". Each chapter is almost self contained, there is no continuity and instead of feeling one with the writer I was getting the impression that she overthinks stuff and everything I read is a memory of a memory of a thought. I also felt there was little science in a book written by someone who loves science, although objectively there is plenty of stuff to rummage through. Perhaps I am not a plant person.

The bottom line is that I was expecting someone autopsying their daily life, not paper wrapping disjointed events that marked their life in general. As it usually is with expectations, I felt a bit disappointed when the author had other plans with her book. It does talk about deep feelings, but I was more interested in the actual events than the internal projection of them. However if you are the kind of person who likes the emotional lens on life, you will probably like the book more than I did.