Lessons in Chemistry – Bonnie Garmus

There are lots of unconventional, true to themselves people in this world and you may never want to get to know them. If nothing else, Elizabeth Zott should convince you it’s a worthwhile venture to try. In 1959, as she is completing her Masters degree and planning on pursuing her doctorate, Elizabeth runs afoul of a seriously evil professor and her education is cut off. One lab, Hastings hires this woman chemist at horrible pay and with plenty of the sexism openly experienced by women in the early 1960s. Make the coffee. Accept jabs from others. Have your requests for equipment ignored, your research skills maligned and rumors about you fly because you are beautiful. The fact that Elizabeth knows her stuff and has a creative brilliant mind only makes things worse for her. Elizabeth is estranged from her parents and her only sibling is dead. She meets and befriends world renowned chemist, Calvin Evans, an ungainly and socially awkward man, whose parents died when he was young. He broke out as a rower and secured scholarships for university. Rowing plays a huge part in this book — in a good way

It is not easy to be a woman in a man’s field. It was nearly impossible in the early sixties to have that role. And Elizabeth, who eats, lives and breathes chemistry is fortunate to find, first Calvin, then 6:30, a hilarious and caring dog and later other men who “get her” and interact with her as an equal and a friend. She teaches the dog English words and 6:30’s mind is an open book to all of us. Along the way, we know she has a daughter, because the book opens with her thinking about Madeleine. Zott is not a natural mother. She is an amazing cook. Cooking is…..chemistry. Eventually, her talent as a cook and her frustration with her employer (it’s complicated and full of spoilers to speak further of this) lead her to work on local television during the afternoon “depression zone” as the host of “Supper at Six.” This book is laugh out loud funny as we see what a dead serious, feminist before one knew what to call it, mother, dog owner and friend to men and women does with a show that tries to fit her into a mold that will not hold her.

A fun, somewhat fantasy (the dog) often deadly realistic view of a variety of ways to be female in the early 1960s. I listened to the audible version and found it well produced and voiced.

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