BOOK REVIEW: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
"Whenever you feel afraid, just remember. Courage is the root of change - and change is what we're chemically designed to do. So when you wake up tomorrow, make this pledge. No more holding yourself back. No more subscribing to others' opinions of what you can and cannot achieve. And no more allowing anyone to pigeonhole you into useless categories of sex, race, economic status, and religion. Do not allow your talents to lie dormant, ladies. Design your own future. When you go home today, ask yourself what YOU will change. And then get started."
For those of you who are not aware, we are in a book club with a good friend of ours. We try to meet at least once a month, if we are able to, and discuss the book we have read. (This is the best way for Kelli to step away from her romance books once in awhile, hehe.) We go through various genres or topics, authors or series. We just recently finished reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus and thought it would be a great chance for us to do our first joint book review together and share with you our thoughts and opinions!
Interestingly enough, even though we both enjoyed this story overall, we each gave it a different rating! Lessons in Chemistry is about a strong, determined female protagonist, Elizabeth Zott. The story takes place in 1960s California where Elizabeth is working as a female chemist at the Hastings Research Institute with an all male team. (Notice how we specifically point out female/male as this is a large part of the story in itself.) At her workplace, and even within society during this timeframe, Elizabeth is not looked at equally within the scientific community, and especially within her team at the Institute, except by Calvin Evans. Calvin is a lonely, quiet, brilliant, Nobel-prize holder chemist who also happens to work at the Hastings Research Institute who falls madly in love with Elizabeth and supports everything she is - a chemist, a scientist, a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, like science, life is unpredictable and not always probable. A few years later, Elizabeth finds herself alone and a single mother who has now become America's beloved cooking show star. Elizabeth's scientific approach to cooking intrigues the women of her time and enthralls them to want to pursue their own dreams and goals in life, daring them to see and fight for their equality with men in society.
First off, Elizabeth comes off as such a dry, almost monotonous character in her speech and approach at life that you just find her fascinating. Having such a scientific way of thinking and viewing life, she sees things that others might not necessarily pick up on, and, in contrast, she misses the obvious jabs and remarks that many characters make. Elizabeth is such a unique and strong female example for young girls, even in this day and age. She knows exactly who she is and what she wants, and she goes for it. She wants to be a chemist but gets fired from her place of employment? Well, she will turn her kitchen into a lab and continue her research there. She finds a stray dog on the street and he follows her home? Well, she will make that dog as smart as she can by teaching it words to see how much a dog can learn, know, and observe. She needs money to support her child? Well, she will say yes to being on television as a cook, and she will bring chemistry into it as much as she can and will also encourage women to do what they want too. Who is telling them they can't? Who is holding them back? Only themselves of course, because they are human, just like men, and can do anything they put their minds to.
Elizabeth's tenacity, as well as her ability to change on the fly (although seemingly inflexible), is one of the reasons I (Chelsea) gave Lessons in Chemistry four stars. Elizabeth is someone who believes all genders are equal, and, in fact, gender should have no influence on what someone achieves. While in this way, she is an excellent role model, she can be rather obtuse and blunt, which although is not necessarily a bad thing may not be the best way to be or handle every situation. Although Elizabeth is the main character of this book, I do love Six Thirty's points of view throughout the second half of the book. I feel they help break up the monotony of the story. While I think that the premise of the story is one that deserves four stars, the writing was at times slow. Overall, I'd suggest giving this a read, although be forewarned that there is discussion of sexual assault.
Though I (Kelli) completely agree with Chelsea's opinions and review of Elizabeth's character, and even the inner monologue expressed by Six-Thirty (Elizabeth's dog), I could only give the book an overall rating of three. It was a very quick and easy read. I loved the drive that Elizabeth showed in her everyday life, I loved the thought process of Six-Thirty, I loved all of the secondary characters that brought life to the story, and I truly enjoyed the full circle at the end that brought joy and happiness to all of the characters. I cannot say that anything was necessarily missing from the story, but it just wasn't enough for me to say "hey, I absolutely love this book, and you are missing out on something spectacular if you do not give it a chance." The writing definitely had drier moments where you just want to get to the point. However, it was a great plot and I loved thinking that there is a badass woman who will take charge of what she wants in life. We all need to see that, and even exemplify that!
Do you have any recommendations that we can read in our book club? We are always looking for new reads and suggestions for books that we love, especially if it is outside of our usual and go-to genres! If you’d like to see what we are reading now, check out our Goodreads profiles (Kelli and Chelsea) or follow 2 Girls Bookin' It on Instagram and Facebook! If you’re excited to see what other topics we’ll be covering in the coming months, make sure to subscribe. Thanks for reading with us!