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'Lessons in Chemistry' and 'Gene Everywhere'

by Janet B. Carson November 28, 2022 at 9:13 a.m.
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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was our in-person book club choice this month.  It was entertaining and funny, having me laughing out loud at times, but discussing some pretty deep issues.  The main character is chemist Elizabeth Zott, a quirky and smart woman trying to make it in a man’s world in the 1960’s.   Brilliant in her own right, she finds it hard to be taken seriously by any of her colleages, until she meets Calvin.  The two of them are made for each other, but life happens.  The dog Six Thirty (he was found at 6:30) narrates a good portion of the story, and some of our group felt like he was the main character.  He was a main player for me, but not the true star. I loved Elizabeth and her precocious child Madeline. 

Elizabeth stays true to herself despite all the things that happen to her.   Single women were treated pretty badly during this era, and she ends up being an unwilling television food star (ala Julia Childs) to pay the bills after losing her job as a chemist, because she had a child out of wedlock.  Her unique cooking lessons don’t just teach women to cook but she is teaching them to value themselves as women.

The lowest score was a 3.5 and the highest was a 4.5, but overall it got a 4 out of 5 rating.  

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I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did all of our book club, and  it is an easy, fast read.  I would recommend it.

Gene, Everywhere by Talya Tate Boerner

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was our online book club selection this month.  It is a memoir of the author’s journey taking care of her elderly father-in-law in her home for 6 weeks, while trying to work and take care of her teenage son, with her husband often on the road for work.  It was an interesting read, since many of us have been, or are in similar care situations with our own parents.  What made it unique, was that Talya really didn’t know her father-in-law all that well.  This was a second marriage and they didn’t live close to each other.  Gene arrived in Dallas where his son John and wife Talya lived,  after his wife had to go into the hospital in Fort Smith.  Adjusting to having someone in your home, having to adapt to different schedules and getting to know each other took time.   Like many men of his generation, Gene had some rigid beliefs and practices, and change was not something he could easily adapt to.  Talya found she was not as adaptable as she had thought to begin with either.   She doesn’t sugarcoat how she reacted to this new phase of life.  It was a rocky start, but it ended up being a life-changing adventure for both of them.  The bond that they developed was very interesting and heart-warming to see grow over time. 

I really like how Talya writes. I adored her first book, The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee, and loved her newest book, Berniece runs Away, which I also just finished. I enjoyed this book, and it brought up many memories of the times I spent taking care of my mom and dad.  If I have one complaint, is that I did not enjoy hearing as much about the banking work that she did.

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It brought back memories for others of us who have cared for elderly parents as well.  Ironically enough, Helen's dad died on the same day and possibly in the same hospital.  Perhaps they crossed paths!   Lowest rating was a 3.5 and the highest was a 4.5--overall it came in at a 3.8 rating.  We all really enjoyed the book.   If you haven't read any Talya Tate Boerner, look for theses books. They are great reading.  We would have loved to have her join us online, but the holiday schedule had us rescheduling, so there wasn't time.  

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