Bonnie Garmus’ “Chemistry Lessons” is One of the Most Delightful and Insightful Novels of the Year

A few weeks ago I talked about Chemistry Lessons, a wonderful novel by best-selling author, Bonnie Garmus.  The protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, was telling her partner that there was no way that she would ever change her name if she married him, even though it was unlikely they would ever marry. Zott saw marriage as antiquated and an instrument of female oppression. Still, they had a close, loving relationship and a real synchronicity that would likely have carried them right through to old age, if it had not been for the unpredictability of life.

So it is that Zott finds herself a single mother to a delightful, precocious little girl in early 1960s California when it was frowned upon to have a child without the benefit of marriage. On top of this, Zott is a brilliant chemist who struggles to be taken seriously among scientists in what was very much a man’s world.

Through a series of coincidences she finds herself the star of a very popular cooking show, Supper at Six. But not only does she teach women across North America how to cook meals that are both nutritious and tasty, she gives them chemistry lessons as well. More than this, she teaches them to believe in themselves and never to regard themselves as just average.

If you are an early wave Boomer or the child of someone born in the mid-1930s to mid-1940s, you need to read this book. It will give you insights into the cultural challenges faced by your mother, which continued to plague Boomer women as well. This novel will also make you laugh and cry. The characters are dazzling, especially the adorable and clever little dog “Sixty-Six”, who knows well over five hundred words! Enjoy!

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