BOOK REVIEW: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus


Title: Lessons in Chemistry
Author: Bonnie Garmus
Publication: April 5, 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 394


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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with–of all things–her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.


When my book club picked Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, I was excited. It was the perfect time with recent political and news coverage topics being about women’s rights and I was excited to read a book by a woman who tried to make change in the 60’s. Sounded like a great read to me.

The main character in this story is Elizabeth Zott, who is not your typical housewife from the 60’s, but a scientist and a feminist if you ask me. She can do the things on her own and insists on it most of the time, until she meets Calvin Evans. This was probably one of the most interesting love stories I’ve read in a long time only because it was so different. It wasn’t your typical love story and these two are both so… different that you just cannot help but love them together. I enjoyed reading about their relationship and sometimes felt Calvin was a bit obsessed with Elizabeth, but never showed it because she would have fled immediately, or that Elizabeth was a little detached at times when I feel she shouldn’t. Either way the two have very interesting personalities and I felt we got to learn more about them as the book continued. Garmus did a great job of making their characters something to learn about throughout.

My major issue with this book was there was no clear building point. Most books I’ve read have a main plot point that is building to the climax of the story. I didn’t feel this book had a climax. There were some reveals, even major reveals near the end, but nothing was an oh my goodness moment where you felt it was an obvious climax. This story read more like a fictional biography. Zott’s life was incredibly interesting and at times sad even, but I did find reading her story interesting. It just wasn’t anything great.

With that said I did enjoy some of the characters. Mad was a great character with a spunky, precocious personality. The neighbor lady was also one of my favorites. She made me laugh. And Elizabeth was so blunt it had me laughing at people’s reactions to her a lot. I also found the antagonists in this book brought out a lot of feeling which I love in writing. Garmus did a fantastic job with that.

I have nothing terribly negative to say about Lessons in Chemistry, but I also don’t have anything amazing to brag on. This was an okay book. I wouldn’t tell someone not to read it. I may not recommend it first up front. I would definitely check out another book from Bonnie Garmus to see how that one goes when she writes another. We will see which way I sway next time.

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