Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry by  Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zott is a force to be reckoned with. She is a brilliant chemist, a fact that goes unrecognized because she is a woman in an era when women were only supposed to be housewives and mothers. The only one who sees her as an equal is the grudge-holding Calvin Evans, a prickly man who is also a chemist at the Hastings Research Institute. A rocky beginning leads to friendship, which soon grows to be more, and they find themselves in love, living together with their brilliant dog, Six-Thirty.

And then one day Elizabeth finds herself alone and pregnant, having to face a world where unmarried mothers are shunned by society, and soon she finds herself jobless and struggling to make a life for her and her daughter, Mad(eline). Then life throws her another curveball and she ends up as the host of an afternoon cooking show. But we’re not talking about your typical cooking show. Elizabeth gives the housewives who tune into her show the titular lessons in chemistry, breaking down not just how to  cook a meal, but also the molecular processes involved. And although it seems that she’s just giving these women cooking lessons, she’s actually giving them a glimpse of what more they can achieve above and beyond being “just a housewife.” She’s giving them the support they are missing to pursue their dreams.

Quirky, charming, heartwarming, funny, life-affirming, inspiring, and one of the most original books I’ve read in a long time, Lessons in Chemistry will go down as one of my favorite books of 2022. Elizabeth Zott is a heroine for those who want their heroines to be smart, strong, barrier-breaking, and patriarchy-smashing. Garmus’s writing style is exquisite, and the story is told in multiple points of view, including the dog. Every supporting character is so well-developed that I crave an additional book for each of them. And of course Six-Thirty needs his own book. Like right now.

A @jennesaisreads Starred Review

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