DRUNK REVIEW: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Minda’s drunk review of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

What I Drank Prior: It’s Christmas! I started early-ish with a spicy Bloody Mary and it has been a variety of red wines since then. It is midnight now.

Goodreads Summary:

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.

My Summary: Basically this is a wishful thinking version of the 1950s/60s, following fictional chemist-and-food-science-TV-show-host Elizabeth Zott. Zott dedicated her early life to her passion, chemistry, and pursued a career, soespute many (many, many) sexist hurdles. When she meets the infamous male chemist Calvin Evans, things start looking up. But, as we know, sh*T doesn’t always go as planned. Flash forward, she has a kid, no job, and a need for money. Luckily she hooks up with a bro who sees her potential in chemistry/food science and that leads her down a new-ish path. She doesn’t see it as a lucky break, for better or worse.

FYI This book was SO hyped. I heard about it from a few friends as their favorite read of 2022. So, obvi, my expectations were high. It didn’t quite meet them, but still an enjoyable read and I really wished this woman actually existed. Also, I know this book is built as really humorous, but I didn’t find it funny at all. Lots of trigger warnings, including rape, sexism, homophobia, suicide, parental abuse, pedophila, general abuse, and forced pregnancy.

What I Loved: There are a few things here! First, I loved the today’s feminist beliefs in the 1960s, even if I recognize it’s not aligned with the time period. Like I said above, I really wish she actually existed and did her small part to change the norms at the time. But alas. Anthoer, there were good depitctions of strong female friendships/support for other women, even if they were developed over time. Ex. One woman goes from being a total hater while they were colleagues to being a champion for Zott when push came to shove down the line. I’m here for that self-reflection. Lastly, again, Zotts total respect for “woman’s work” so to speak. She recognized the struggle of being a stay at home mom slash homemaker slash house manager and that is great. I work full time and have an amazingly contributive husband and it’s still a lot.

What I Liked: For one, the cooking show itself was SO interesting! The food science/chemistry was a little much at times (eg would it kill her to call it “salt” instead of “NaCl” sometimes?) but it made sense for Zott’s character. I also liked the family dramas. I was really interested and wanted to uncover the true story behind both Zott and Evans’ childhoods. Another thing, there was a real humanist thread throughout the whole thing in terms of her beliefs and viewpoint. They went a little hard on being anti religious, even when saying all beliefs are valid, but you could still tell how she really felt.

What I Didn’t Like: Ok seriously, was this book funny? I guess much of it was over my head. Like, was having the dog’s s perspective the funny part? Or the overly precocious kid? As referenced above, there was a lot of srriousl content here and I guess I don’t think the male hegemony is all that funny, my b. Similarly, I don’t think they handled serious topics all that great. Adjacently related, the narrative really reeked of white feminism. Imo still a valid form of feminism, but very very white. There were a few throw off phrases to let you know she cares, but with a intersectionalism lens I think we know just thinking about something isn’t enough. Finally, TBH I thought all the characters were kind of grating. Like, girl, idk that we have to be so unhappy having a kind of great platform to create change in millions of households? But ok it’s not legit chemistry ok. Ok.

What I Hated: Following up with grating characters, omg the inclusion of the dog and preschooler perspectives. I couldn’t even. Y’all know I hate taking a younger sibling along and this was somehow worse. And Six-Thirty, the dog’s name, literally how dumb. The anthropomorphism I wasn’t there for either. Pass on that.

Drink Pairing: Chilled gin martini. It’s certainly going to get you there and feels sophisticated, but then you taste it and you’re like eek how am I going to finish? But of course you do because you’re not going to waste alcohol and see point #1.

Rating: 3/5

xxxo, Minda

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