Review: “Lessons in Chemistry” – Bonnie Garmus 2022

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Review: “Lessons in Chemistry” – Bonnie Garmus 2022

Bonnie Garmus’ “Lessons in Chemistry” is an absolute gem of a novel that I stumbled upon recently, and it’s one of those books that you just can’t put down. The story revolves around Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist in the 1960s who, despite all odds, manages to carve out a unique place for herself in a world that’s not exactly welcoming to women in science.

Elizabeth is not your typical heroine. She’s a single mother and a chemist who finds herself hosting a cooking show. Yes, you read that right. Imagine Julia Child, but instead of butter and cream, she’s sneaking in chemistry lessons. The idea sounds wild, but it works brilliantly. Elizabeth’s approach to cooking as chemistry is both funny and deeply insightful, showing how she uses her platform to empower women and challenge societal norms.

I was drawn to this book because, as someone who has spent years in the academic and scientific world, Elizabeth’s struggles and triumphs felt incredibly real. I remember my own early days in a male-dominated field, facing skepticism and having to prove myself constantly. Elizabeth’s journey resonated with me on a personal level, and I found myself cheering her on from page one.

The book is packed with characters that feel real and relatable. There’s Calvin Evans, a fellow scientist who falls for Elizabeth not just because she’s beautiful but because she’s brilliant. Their relationship is touching and real, filled with mutual respect and genuine connection. Then there’s Madeline, Elizabeth’s daughter, who is as sharp and curious as her mother. Their bond is heartwarming and adds another layer of depth to the story.

One of my favorite parts of the book is how it handles the theme of gender inequality. It doesn’t just gloss over the struggles that Elizabeth faces; it dives deep into the systemic sexism of the time. Yet, it’s done with a sense of humor and resilience that keeps you engaged. Elizabeth’s character is a testament to the power of perseverance and intelligence in the face of adversity.

The writing is sharp and witty, filled with moments that made me laugh out loud and others that brought a tear to my eye. Garmus has a knack for blending humor with poignant moments, making the book both entertaining and thought-provoking. The way she describes the science behind everyday tasks is nothing short of genius, making complex concepts accessible and interesting.

“Lessons in Chemistry” also sparked memories of my own efforts to make science more accessible and exciting. I’ve always believed that science isn’t just for the lab; it’s all around us. Elizabeth’s cooking show reminded me of the times I’ve used everyday examples to explain complex physics principles to my students. It’s all about making those connections and sparking that curiosity.

One particularly emotional moment in the book took me back to a pivotal time in my own life. It was my first big conference presentation, and I was up against a panel of renowned experts, all of whom were men. I remember the anxiety and the self-doubt that threatened to overwhelm me. But then, as I looked out into the audience, I saw my old mentor, a woman who had broken countless barriers in her own career, giving me a small nod of encouragement. That moment gave me the strength to push forward, to present my research with confidence. Just like Elizabeth, I realized that my voice and my work mattered. That nod of encouragement from my mentor was my reminder that perseverance and belief in oneself can indeed make a difference.

In conclusion, “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus is a must-read. It’s a beautifully written, engaging, and inspiring story that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Whether you’re a scientist, a student, or just someone looking for a great story, this book has something for everyone. It’s a reminder of the importance of perseverance, the power of knowledge, and the incredible impact one person can have. Highly recommended!

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