Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel
by Bonnie Garmus
Hardcover- $26.10

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  "She is Fabulous" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/07/22

Sort of an intro to feminism - or at least why the movement was/is necessary. EASY read, so fun, and I didn't know where the author was going to take me, but I enjoyed the ride (read)!

 
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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/11/22

I love the book. It was witty, charming, and the centered around a strong female lead. All around, a great read!

 
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  "This book will appeal to women of all backgrounds and ages.," by thewanderingjew (see profile) 12/20/22

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, author; Miranda Raison, Pandora Sykes, narrators
Elizabeth Zott, with all of her uniqueness and quirkiness, is a brilliant scientist above all. However, it is the middle of the 20th century, and in the 1950’s, women were encouraged to be nurses, secretaries or teachers, gofers getting coffee for their male bosses, typing their reports, or wives and mothers, allowing the men in their lives to take credit for their accomplishments and ceding control of their lives to the men who were in charge. They were not encouraged to be scientists, and they were not treated as scientists. It was simply the way it was, but Elizabeth Zott did not appreciate the way she was being ignored, passed over, and mistreated, and she refused to accept it.
She worked in a lab and did intensive and brilliant research. Although she was defiant, she was still treated as a lab technician or worse. Her career and education were stymied by the behavior of what can only be considered toxic males, males who believed it was their right to be sexually aggressive, and then if reported, to claim they were enticed, used by the female who thought she could basically “sleep her way to the top”. Of course, this was untrue, but men were in charge, so women were easily blamed and shamed. Elizabeth insisted on being independent. She took charge of her own life and made the best of her unhappy situation. She worked hard, but often her efforts and successes were claimed by the men with whom she worked, men who betrayed her by stealing her thunder. They always had the superior position, so she was helpless and unable to fight back.
When Elizabeth and Calvin Evans met, both of their lives changed. He was also a scientist, and he accepted her as a scientist, not just as a woman. He believed in her, recognized her intelligence and her ability, and showed her the respect most men did not. He also respected her ideas and scientific theories, unlike the other men she had known who had mocked her, arrogantly believing they were more intelligent and capable, although her knowledge and her skill was often head and shoulders above theirs. Calvin’s personality had been shaped by the sadness and tragedies of his early life. He was adopted shortly after his birth, only to suffer the tragic loss of those parents in an unfortunate accident. Placed in an orphanage, he grew up experiencing the abuse of men who preyed upon those who were weaker. He was often a troublemaker, but he was always brilliant.
Elizabeth was also shaped by her experiences with hardship. Sad because of the death of her brother, estranged from her dysfunctional mother and criminal father, she was adrift in a world that did not appreciate her true worth. She angered people by expecting them to treat her as the scholar that she was, because she did not believe her gender defined her. She refused to accept the authority of men. She learned to protect herself from their advances. Both she and Calvin were mocked by those who were less intelligent because neither of them conformed to the mores of their peers, peers who often had no moral compass of their own.
Calvin was able to achieve fame, if not fortune, because of the many awards he won, and because he was a man. Elizabeth would not even have been considered for an award; a male co-worker’s name would unfairly get the credit for her effort. Calvin accepted her feelings about marriage, understanding that she did not want to be beholden to a man for her security. When they decided to set up a household together, much to the chagrin of those around them because they did not marry, as custom demanded, their coworkers talked about them. She was accused of using Calvin, who had garnered acclaim and fame, to advance her own career. They refused to give her the credit due her. Because Calvin and Elizabeth were truly in love, they weathered the whispers of those that laughed at them behind their backs, those who were jealous of their joy and success. More of the shameful comments were directed toward Elizabeth, because she was, after all, a woman who was still struggling to live in a man’s world.
Calvin and Elizabeth had a dog named 6:30 who rounded out their world. Even the dog was exceptional and unusual. They were incredibly happy until Calvin’s sudden death. At the time, Elizabeth didn’t know it, but her life would soon unalterably change. She had no idea that she was carrying their child in her womb, a child that would come into the world under unusual circumstances, with an unusual name; the child would be called Mad. Elizabeth had no idea how to raise another human being. She treated the infant as if she was her equal, teaching her about life through her lens of science. There was no baby talk for Mad. Because Elizabeth ignored the limits of infancy, so did Mad. She flourished, and by the age of three, she was able to read and converse with adults, asking intelligent questions when she did not understand their meaning. Elizabeth, however, was exhausted, and a neighbor, Harriet, fortuitously appeared in her life to make it proceed more smoothly. She and Mad got along famously.
When Mad was four, Elizabeth stretched the rules, and enrolled her in school. She was determined to engage her with children close to her age to give her a better childhood than she had experienced. Mad was more mature and more advanced than most of the children, though she was younger. She and her teacher did not see eye to eye. When Mad had an issue with another child, Amanda, Elizabeth became acquainted with Amanda’s father, Walter. They discovered that they had something in common. They were both often called in to a conference with the incompetent teacher. Walter had recognized Elizabeth’s natural ability to commune with people. She mesmerized him with her calmness and her explanations. He offered her a job doing a cooking show on television, but she was reluctant to accept. She would only do it if she could use science in the kitchen. She was not a cook; she was a scientist. Her kitchen at home had been transformed into a lab and she wanted to do the show in that same environment. She knew about all the ingredients that went into her recipes and what part of the body those ingredients benefited. She decided that because she needed the money, she would try it. However, her behavior during the live programs soon threatened to give Walter ulcers and to have both of them fired. She did not follow Walter’s rules. The man who was their boss was nothing less than an ogre, as were most of the men who had been in Elizabeth’s life. Some of the men fit the description of the toxic male to a “t”, although sometimes they appeared to be more caricatures than real people, so heinous was their behavior.
Using tongue in cheek humor, excellent character development and a narrative that is clear and easy to understand, Garmus has created a book that transcends age and background. It is a book that is hard to put down. It grabs every reader completely and is so compelling in its message that it will hold you until you turn the last page. As inviting as the beginning is, the ending is that much more satisfying! Justice is done.
This was a book that I didn’t think I was going to enjoy as much as I did because it is, obviously, a feminist tome. I knew it was going to present many progressive themes as so many authors choose to do today. I knew that I might not completely agree with the politics in the book and was conflicted about reading it, but rave reviews kept pouring in, so I decided to read it, and I am glad. Growing up a couple of decades later than Elizabeth, as a fraternal twin, I understood the premise of the book. I was subjected to the unfair and unequal treatment of males vs. females, in both the working world and the family world. My brother was afforded more freedom, more money, and more choices in life than I was because he was a boy and I was a girl. Parents looked away from the sins of their sons, since “boys would be boys”! There were “nice girls and good girls” and we knew exactly the kind of girl we were expected to be.
I have to admit that I loved the book. Elizabeth’s personality fascinated me. She drew people to her even as she turned them away, which is a contradiction in terms. Stubbornly, and with determination of purpose, she changed the world which proves that one person, and one idea, can bring change. As John F. Kennedy said, “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try”.
I did find some contradictions in the philosophy of this book, since today, the woke belief in the fluidity of gender is often becoming the antithesis of equality for women. Men who believe they are women can compete with women, though biologically they are definitely stronger than women because of their build and hormones, even with the drugs they take to enhance the sex they choose. Are the women who are demanding that all things be accepted, all genders, all sexual proclivities, actually hurting themselves, setting their own cause back, and ultimately, negating all of the rights and equality they have worked so hard to achieve? In demanding justice and equality, are they somehow laboring under the false idea that men and women are actually equal in all things? Does that not contradict science?

 
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  "Cooking, science and the powerful force of a woman" by [email protected] (see profile) 01/30/23

I loved this book about a strong woman who loves science and fights gender discrimination to do what she loves most. She is passionate about cooking and the science behind it. She loves and hates intensely. She is clueless, stubborn, and fierce but loves her husband and child so much that she is also endearing.

 
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  "" by Miche21 (see profile) 02/09/23

 
  "" by Hinder (see profile) 02/11/23

Every turning page I was more and more on the same page with Elizabeth Zott! Somehow, and how exactly I don’t know, are women still fighting the same issues today and back then. Are we ever going to equal? We shall see!

 
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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 02/13/23

I liked the book. I had zero interest in reading it but once I started I found it very interesting.

 
  "" by AllaFarberMcEntee (see profile) 02/13/23

 
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  "Lessons In Chemistry" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/02/23

I couldn't put this book down. Read it in 2 days. A book all men should read

 
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  "Well written and engaging story" by marinegoddess (see profile) 03/15/23

I loved this book and found I had to keep reading once engaged in the story. The main character was intriguing and relatable. I have lived through this 50s-60s era, and fought through it as we worked our way out of it. It was all about power and those who did not want to give it up. The society needed to change and it has. Though there are still pockets perpetuating these beliefs and behaviors...

 
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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/20/23

A very dramatic look into what women endured and how far we’ve come. Thanks for the intelligent take on a strong woman.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/21/23

 
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