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Lessons in Chemistry

Author : Bonnie Garmus

Genre : Fiction

I just finished reading this delightful, funny, and cleverly-written book about a gifted chemist, Elizabeth Zott, and the variety of people who became her friends and foes. Elizabeth lives in the 1950s and 60s, a time period when society worked diligently to keep women in their place, primarily at home, or in low-paying jobs with little opportunity for advancement. Against all accepted societal norms, Elizabeth finds herself a single mother and the reluctant star of a TV cooking show, Supper at Six. For her, cooking is chemistry, and so to the chagrin of her producers, she begins teaching chemistry lessons to the homemakers who tune in to the show.

There is an abandoned dog in the story—Six-Thirty—who adopts Elizabeth and adds his own thinking and astute observations to the story; Calvin, her boyfriend; her precocious daughter, Mad—short for Madeleine; and many other surprising characters who play their parts well.

Some might say that Bonnie Garnus’ portrayal of life for a brilliant woman and what she had to do to overcome the obstacles placed in her path is truly fiction. If so, they are looking back at the 50s and 60s with nostalgia. There is language in this book and rape, so be advised. Even so, it’s a book anyone could benefit from reading because our generations of children and grandchildren stand on the shoulders of those women who did live during that time period, and we mostly don’t know their stories or what they sacrificed so we could have so many options today.

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