Hope Jahren is a brilliant storyteller. She’ also a scientist who grew up in her father’s laboratory. In essence, her father taught her 42 consecutive years worth of introductory physics and earth science in that lab, nestled within a community college deep in rural Minnesota. Her father loved that lab, and so did she. While her childhood is captured in astonishing, vivid detail–one of the best writers I’ve encountered in a long time–it is her journey to become a female scientist, her love for trees, and her friendship with her quirky lab partner Bill–wait until you meet him–that makes this book one of the best reads of the year.
Interspersed between the story of her life are little vignettes about the stories of trees. As she describes a seed in one chapter she says, “A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temp-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance…Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” Sums up our lives pretty nicely, I’d say.
You will never look at trees the same way again. And you will never forget this remarkable book.