‘We use words like sister and aunt as if they describe rigid laws of biology,’ Zimmer writes, ‘but these laws are really only rules of thumb. Under the right conditions, they can be readily broken.’ This is clear if you widen the lens, as Zimmer so artfully does, to explore multiple channels of heredity, including the microbiome, epigenetics and culture. Along the way, he reveals that the way we talk about heredity...isn’t linked to science at all. At every turn, Zimmer tries to complicate the concept of heredity and challenge received wisdom about why we are the way we are ... She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is brimming with...surprising discoveries; and the cumulative effect is a radical destabilization of the boundaries conventionally drawn around the individual, families, and even the human species ... Zimmer does not attempt to erase the concept of race as a meaningful category, and his skilfull handling of the subject is a welcome contribution to current contentious discussions of race and genetics.
...[an] extraordinary new book ... She Has Her Mother’s Laugh particularly shines when it comes to engaging with the notion of race, a topic once again pushed to the forefront of public discourse ... This book is Zimmer at his best: obliterating misconceptions about science with gentle prose ... Any fan of his previous books or his journalism will appreciate this work. But so, too, will parents wishing to understand the magnitude of the legacy they’re bequeathing to their children, people who want to grasp their history through genetic ancestry testing and those seeking a fuller context for the discussions about race and genetics so prevalent today.
Unlike previous books, which focused almost exclusively on the mysteries entwined in our DNA, Zimmer chooses heredity as his subject, which includes nongenetic arcs as well. He commences with vivid historical anecdotes ... For all the rich cultural ground Zimmer covers, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh shines supernova-bright as he teases out the genomic threads of heredity. Mendel’s Law, epigenetic influences, the revolutionary CRISPR molecules — they’re all here, painted in the nuanced tones of a Renaissance master ... Zimmer’s medical investigations unfold with the suspense and flair of a novel ... a lush, enthralling book that transforms the reader with its insights.