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A friend read a review of this book and suggested that I might like it.  I certainly did.  I loved, loved, loved this book.


Hope Jahren was born in 1969, the 5th child and only daughter of a scientist in Minnesota and his wife, a woman frustrated by and resentful of her limited opportunities in life.  Hope grew up hanging out at her father's lab and assumed she would grow up to be a scientist.  She did, but what she wasn't prepared for, despite her mother's example, was how difficult her sex would make it for others to take her seriously.  She ended up focusing on botany and simply by being brilliant ended up being successful, but it was a hard road, made harder by the barriers of her sex and her unconventional personality.


By unconventional, I do mean, but not exclusively, that she didn't hew to the very limited permitted personality types considered acceptable for women.  But she also had and has an extremely close working relationship with a male scientist, Bill, that confuses people.   And she suffers rather badly from depression (really, bipolar disorder because she goes up and down so wildly).  It's finally Bill that insists that she get help.  She marries and has a son (has to go off her medications when she became pregnant, so that chapter is harrowing).   And she builds 3 different labs, one in Atlanta, Georgia (Georgia Tech University), one in Baltimore, Maryland (Johns Hopkins University), and one in Manoa, Hawaii (University of Hawaii).  


She writes beautiful clear sentences  and it's clear how much she loves her work.   There were several passages that moved me to tears (no, really).  I underlined the book in several places because of the beauty of the passages and what spoke to me.  My father was a scientist and I spent time hanging out at his lab, although not as much as Hope did at her father's.  I have encountered that same bewildering reaction of being thought lesser because I am a woman and wanting because I do not conform to the permitted personality types for women.  And she visits 2 obscure places that I also have visited:  "Monkey Jungle" south of Miami (awful) and Poverty Point, the remnant of an Indian settlement in Northeastern Louisiana (not awful, except for the mosquitoes).  I am lucky that I have not had to grapple with her mental health issues, but she has accomplished much more extraordinary things than I have and she has mostly had a wonderful time doing it.

I knew this review would not do the book justice, so I just have to hope that someone will read it and report back.  It was published in 2016, so it should be readily available.



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