Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, was a book that I initially dismissed after having read 161 pages.
I’m not really sure how that happened. Usually, if I make it to the 50 page mark in any book, I’m guaranteed to finish, but in this case, I just didn’t. In 2019, I bagged up the book and took it back to the library unfinished, presuming that I would think little more of it,
Except, I thought about it all the time. I thought about the wonderful ways in which Jahren uses the scientific processes of plants as a metaphor for the many facets of humanity. I thought about the many different kinds of love she talks about. I thought about the unlikeliness of life as she describes it – poetry meets science.
I knew I had to find a way to finish the book.
I put myself back on the waiting list for it and was about to check it out again when the pandemic happened. And then my place in the queue expired and I forgot to renew it.
But earlier this year, that same copy I’d started in 2019 made its way back into my hands and I gobbled up the rest of the story.
There’s not really a lot to say in terms of plot – the book’s subtitle covers it all rather succinctly. It is a story of trees, science, and love. But it’s more too.
It’s a book about the family we choose and about the ways that love endures. It’s about plants, undoubtedly, but about people too and our connection to the world. I felt like a cell of a bigger organism whilst reading this book and that sense of connection is worth so very much after such a long spell of isolation.
It’s about the sacrifices that we make to do the things we want – living in dodgy trailer parks to own a horse, for example, or sleeping in a van. It’s a nice reminder that our priorities might not be linear, and that at some points in our lives, our actions might align with our values more than others.
There is so much here to love, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why I put this to one side. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to hear what was being said, or perhaps I just needed time to let the first half percolate. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I went back to it.
Another great reminder that life isn’t linear, and reading books doesn’t have to be either.
What’s the longest time you’ve taken to finish a book? I think this one is a record for me at three years, but in my defence, I did have a chunk of time off! I’d love to hear your thoughts.