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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - Meet Elizabeth Zott: "a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention" (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show. This novel is "irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel" (The New York Times Book Review) and "witty, sometimes hilarious...the Catch-22 of early feminism." (Stephen King, via Twitter)
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek
"The most delightful novel I read this year...fresh and surprising...I laughed out loud "--Philip Galanes, The New York Times
"A unique heroine...you'll find yourself wishing she wasn't fictional." --Seattle Times
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.
- ISBN-13: 9780385547345
- ISBN-10: 038554734X
- Publisher: Doubleday Books
- Publish Date: April 2022
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Page Count: 400
When people reminisce about America’s “good old days,” they’re often envisioning the idyllic post-World War II period of the 1950s: between V-E Day and the beginning of the Vietnam War, a booming time of power and prosperity. Like a woman-centric “Mad Men,” Bonnie Garmus’ devastating and funny debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry, blows the lid off that simplistic myth. Budding research scientist Elizabeth Zott is brilliant, awkward and laser-focused on her studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, but neither her male colleagues nor the other women on campus take her seriously. Between her beauty and her gender, consensus dictates that Elizabeth should be aiming for an “MRS” degree instead of a Ph.D. in chemistry. Nevertheless, Elizabeth insists on bucking tradition, thwarting rules both written and unwritten, never allowing her progress to be curtailed by other people’s agendas. As the child of high-level grifters (a dangerous doomsday preacher and a tax cheat), Elizabeth learned how to fend for herself early on. But at UCLA, one man’s unchecked violence and abuse of power derail her plans, a devastating yet all-too-familiar turn of events. Forced out of the Ph.D. track, Elizabeth takes a position at the Hastings Research Institute, a private lab where she meets like-minded genius Calvin Evans. Calvin has never fit in either, but as a man, he has an easier time of it. Elizabeth and Calvin’s prickly, funny and odd love story leaps off the page. The two are truly soul mates, and their happiness should be ordained, but life and this novel are far more complicated than that. Two awkward nonconformists who keep to themselves can generate a surprising amount of rage from those who demand adherence to the status quo. [caption id="attachment_163601" align="alignright" width="202"] Read our starred review of the audiobook edition of ‘Lessons in Chemistry.’[/caption] When the life that Elizabeth has painstakingly forged goes heartbreakingly off-kilter, Lessons in Chemistry becomes a witty and sharp dramedy about resilience and found families. Elizabeth takes a job as the host of a cooking show that’s steeped in science, and though she never planned to be a mother, her child, Madeline, is a joy, and Elizabeth is uniquely brilliant at mothering. Elizabeth and Madeline (and their dog) find support in unlikely places: Harriet the neighbor steps in to help, and TV producer Walter Pine becomes Elizabeth’s best friend. The scope of what this iconoclastic woman goes through is breathtaking, from personal losses to unrelenting sexism. Along the winding road, she challenges every hierarchy, rule and system she can. She never tries to fit in, but she couldn’t even if she wanted to, and for a person like this, the social strictures of the 1950s and early ’60s hit especially hard. The Madison Avenue of “Mad Men” looks like easy street compared to Garmus’ Southern California. Not one moment of Elizabeth’s story rings false; every detail is a well-documented component of the time period yet specific to her experience. Readers won’t be able to get enough of Elizabeth and her makeshift family. Lessons in Chemistry is a story to return to again and again.