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Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Title: Lessons in Chemistry
Author: Bonnie Garmus
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 400 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (WA and IA)

SummaryChemist 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. 

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which 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.  

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

Review: This is such a fun book. I laughed and smiled often while reading, but I also found myself saying, "right on!" a ton, too. A book that has humor, messages of equality, and good characters? Sign me up.

Elizabeth is a breath of fresh air. She is direct, no-nonsense, smart, odd, and taking on the world without seeming like she is. She just says what she believes and since it goes against the 1960s cultural norms in the US, she seems revolutionary. But really, she is just sensible and doesn't want to put up with cr*p from anyone, least of all men who aren't as smart as she is.

In amongst the bits that made me smile and laugh, there are really serious issues in this novel: sexual assault (no details are given), equity in academia and the workplace, issues in the Catholic church, our treatment of orphans, how we raise children (and pets), and more. But it doesn't feel preachy at all. 

I can see why this book is doing so well on the blogosphere, on Goodreads, and in the larger media sphere. I really enjoyed it! And, how funny that I've read two books in a row that have animals who are proper characters (the other is Remarkably Bright Creatures, which I also loved). Six-Thirty, Elizabeth's dog, is fantastic.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (Author)--G
  • Big Summer Books--400 pages
  • Literary Escapes--Iowa
  • Popsugar--Duology (2 related novels)--both have a "talking" animal that is a main character

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