by Bonnie Garmus
Doubleday Books, 2022
audio edition narrated by Miranda Raison
Random House Audio, 2022
11 hours and 55 minutes
source: library ebook, audible audio
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.
This is the buzzy book of the season and with good reason! Elizabeth Zott is one of the most memorable characters I've come across in a very long time, and the supporting cast of characters (including the dog Six-thirty) is superb.
...this was not the book I was expecting. The cover implies light and breezy, while the blurb describes the novel as "laugh-out-loud funny." I experienced something much more substantial and serious. Garmis offers some pretty grim social commentary on the status of women during the 1960s, which somehow feels even heavier in light of last Friday's Supreme Court ruling.
Lessons in Chemistry is still a wonderful read. (Trigger warning for a sexual assault scene early in the novel.) But I do recommend you read, rather than listen. The repeated mispronunciation of Jack LaLanne's name was annoying, but the mispronunciation of multiple chemical names/terms drove me to distraction. I had to give up on the audio and switch to print.
If you're looking for a summer read that's a bit more serious and will easily lend itself to discussion, I recommend Lessons in Chemistry.