Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Earth in Her Hands

75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

by Jennifer Jewell


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The Earth in Her Hands

75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

by Jennifer Jewell

Review posted 1/25/21.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2020. 324 pages.
Review written September 22, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Standout:
#5 General Nonfiction

This amazing and beautiful book features seventy-five plantswomen who work in a multiplicity of jobs, mostly jobs I didn’t even know existed before reading this book, and serve plants and the earth in some way.

The format is consistent for all the featured women. On their opening spread in this generously-sized book, one page is filled with a picture of them among their plants. There’s a quote from the subject next to the picture. The text of the feature begins with “Her Work,” telling what she does. Then either “Her Plant” or “Her Landscape” featuring a plant or landscape that’s special to her. The bulk of the feature is the next part, “Her Plant Journey,” which goes into the next spread, giving an outline of her life story and how she came to her current work and the things that excite her about what she does. The second spread has another, smaller picture. The features finish off with “Other Inspiring Women,” a list of women whose work has inspired the featured woman. And yes, some of those are featured, too.

The women are listed alphabetically rather than by type of work, but there’s such a wide variety of work, that approach probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Some jobs are a little more traditional – nursery owners and farmers, photographers, artists, and writers. There are many horticulturists, gardeners, botanists, and landscape architects. But then we’ve got the owner of a houseplant shop in New York City, seed savers, and collectors, floral designers, garden directors, educators, advocates, herbalists, a soil scientist, a plant pathologist, and a horticultural therapist. And that doesn’t express the many aspects of these jobs that I learned about in these pages, each woman bringing love and passion to what she does.

Also amazing are how these women are located all over the world. Yes, the majority live in the U.S. or the U.K., but there are also women featured from India, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

This is a beautiful book. The photos of the women on the large, glossy pages usually highlight flowers, or maybe some lovely landscape or setting. I read the book usually one feature per day (I confess I had this book out from the library while we were closed for the pandemic so I had extra time.), and it made me want to get out there and do something with plants – at the very least got me noticing plants more on my daily walks by my lake and taking more close-ups of flowers.

This is in the adult section of the library, but I think putting this book into the right teen’s hands might set someone on the path of working with the earth, because it opens your eyes to all the possibilities.

For me, I found that sitting and spending a couple minutes reading one of these features was guaranteed to put me in a peaceful mental state, like taking a deep breath.