WHY: “A darkly humorous, emotionally raw, and exquisitely crafted memoir.
“In clever prose, Jahren distills what it means to be one of those researchers who ‘love their calling to excess.’ She describes the joy of working alone at night, the ‘multidimensional glory’ of a manic episode, scavenging jury-rigged equipment from a retiring colleague, or spontaneously road-tripping with students to a roadside monkey preserve. She likens elements of her scientific career to a plant world driven by need and instinct, comparing the academic grant cycle to the resource management of a deciduous tree and the experience of setting up her first—desperately underfunded—basement lab to ambitious vines that grow quickly wherever they can.
“But the most extraordinary and delightful element of her narrative is her partnership with Bill, a taciturn student who becomes both her lab partner and her sarcastic, caring best friend. It’s a rare portrait of a deep relationship in which the mutual esteem of the participants is unmarred by sexual tension. For Jahren, a life in science yields the gratification of asking, knowing, and telling; for the reader, the joy is in hearing about the process as much as the results.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review
“Exceptionally compelling and enlightening…A forthright, beautifully expressed, and galvanizing chronicle.” —Donna Seaman, in a starred review for BOOKLIST
“A personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.” —KIRKUS, starred review
“This title should be required reading for all budding scientists, especially young women. However, being a scientist is not essential in order to savor Jahren’s stories and reflections.” —Faye Chadwell, in a starred review for LIBRARY JOURNAL
From the beginning of the book:I grew up in my father’s laboratory and played beneath the chemical benches until I was tall enough to play on them. My father taught forty-two consecutive years’ worth of introductory physics and earth science in that laboratory, nestled within a community college deep in rural Minnesota; he loved his lab, and it was a place that my brothers and I loved also.