By Stella Maclean
Over winter break, I had the pleasure of reading Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry. I will admit I was initially hesitant to read this novel as I was not an avid fan of sophomore year Honors Chemistry. However, the title of this book was actually quite misleading. I decided to give this book a chance because my mom, who knows me quite well, said she thought I would really enjoy it.
Lessons in Chemistry is a story set in 1960s California following chemist Elizabeth Zott as she attempts to make it in a field rife with misogyny. I love a book with a good protagonist, and I found Zott to be just that. She is incredibly stubborn and does not let others push her around despite the constant criticism she receives from men in her life. Her vulnerability seems nonexistent until she meets the awkward but extremely successful chemist Calvin Evans. He does not undermine her incredible intelligence and sees past her hard exterior and the two go on to fall in love.
One reason that I loved reading this novel is that Calvin has a deep passion for rowing that he passes on to Zott. As a rower myself, it was amazing to see how rowing brings people together and alters lives. The real draw of this book comes when things start going downhill for Zott and she finds herself without a job, raising a child alone. Fast forward a few years to when her daughter’s in preschool; the homemade school lunch Zott has packed catches the attention of a parent who happens to be a TV producer and Zott’s life takes a turn. Zott’s very own cooking show, Supper at Six begins. Zott is expected to be a relatable feminine figure for simple housewives to get dinner inspiration from, but she has other plans. Zott uses the chemistry of cooking food to help women break out of the roles they have been boxed into all their lives. Suddenly making dinner is not just a silly housewife task, but a chemistry experiment that shows women they are capable of so much more than they are told.
I couldn’t put this book down; the narration is witty and comical, yet the story delves into significant themes about love, loss, and most importantly, feminism as Zott faces many professional and personal hardships. No matter your stance on chemistry, this uplifting story full of fantastic plot twists is a must-read.