Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry, Fountaindale Public Library

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

First Released: 2022


Find It: Physical copy on the 3rd floor, large print, eBook and eAudiobook through Libby and Axis 360

Summary: Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s, and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, though, life is unpredictable. This is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because, as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Review:  Lessons in Chemistry is a great novel, and I learned a little about women in science and cooking. I absolutely loved Elizabeth’s quick wit, especially when she’s dealing with men. It made for some LOL moments. I also liked reading about Elizabeth and Calvin’s family histories; these stories add a lot to the novel. It made me understand why they were not in a hurry to get married or have children. And why Elizabeth was shocked to learn she was pregnant. I think her precocious daughter, Mad, actually helped Elizabeth with the grieving process. even if she didn’t want to face reality. The cooking show was a great way to showcase Elizabeth’s talents to a mass audience, despite her misgivings about being on television. It helps us realize how central chemistry is to our everyday lives. It was heartening to read about how she used her influence to encourage other women to pursue their careers. It made me think about how many women gave up their promising ambitions for marriage in the 1960s and how many continue to do so.

The novel describes how Elizabeth lives life on her own terms and doesn’t take no for an answer. After her disastrous upbringing, failed Ph.D. program and the sudden loss of Calvin, she continues to press on. Garmus satisfyingly answers questions about Calvin’s family at the end. Her adorable dog, Six-Thirty, stole many scenes throughout the novel. In a lot of ways, Lessons in Chemistry was sad, but it’s also empowering and funny. I wish there was some diversity within the characters, but I still recommend Lessons in Chemistry.

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