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Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus

4/60 | Started 01.11.24 • Finished 01.24.24 | 3.5 stars

Given the popularity of this book, and at the recommendation of one member, we had to include this in our book club selections for 2024. The summary reads intriguing enough but I took issue with some of the themes in the book.

But that was before Elizabeth—before he realized that making her happy made him happy. Which, he thought, as he grabbed his tennis shoes, had to be the very definition of love. To actually want to change for someone else.

The story centers around Elizabeth Zott, a chemist and TV cook who struggles to find acceptance in a male-dominated culture. She is rightfully incensed at her inability to be taken seriously in the field of chemistry, as well as to be viewed as a professional rather than just a sexy female to look at on TV. She experiences violence and abuse (trigger warning), and endures her accounts being discredited even by authorities. On top of all that, she stands up to being ostracized as a single mom.

Besides, even if he knew every word in the English language, he still wouldn’t have any idea what to say. Because what does one say to someone who’s lost everything?

In spite of these difficulties, Elizabeth finds love, a family of sorts, and a real sense of coming into her own. However, to accomplish this, the author really does a number on men in general, which I found to be unnecessary. It was like in order to make Elizabeth the bigger person, men had to be relegated to either weak and wimpy or outrageously aggressive and dominating. Now, I'm not saying that there aren't men who fall into these categories, but I am decrying Garmus's broad brush strokes. Only Elizabeth's man is not like the others, but then he's quirky and self-centered and an all around unique person that I feel like he doesn't quite stand in juxtaposition to Garmus's stereotyping like he should.

The words fit snugly, like laces knotted twice.

So, all in all, the book was okay, but I wasn't quite ready to give it the 4+ stars that many in the goodreads/amazon world have done. I enjoyed Elizabeth Zott's triumph over her circumstances. There was some great character development, especially Elizabeth's daughter, Mad. I also found the chemist to TV chef transition to be quite amusing. I probably would watch a show like hers... although it would be hard to beat Alton Brown's Good Eats.

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