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'Lessons in Chemistry'

by Janet B. Carson January 15, 2023 at 5:43 p.m.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

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was our in-person book club

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in November and our online book club this month.  

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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 colleagues, until she meets Calvin.  The two of them are made for each other, but life happens.  The dog, named Six Thirty (he was found at 6:30) narrates a good portion of the story, and some of the in person book club 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.  There were a lot of gender equality issues covered but not in a preachy or militant way. 

There were many analogies in the book from the theme of chemistry—life is change, and chemistry is change.  Rowing and life both need everyone working together to move forward.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend you read it.  In the in-person book  club the lowest rating was a 3.5 and the highest a 4.5; online, the lowest rating was a 4.5 and the highest a 4.75, so you can see everyone really liked it.  We had some great discussions, and good food at Lynne's when we were in person, and Paula really got into the character on line.

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 But then, her husband is a chemist!  Fun times!  

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