Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

In the late 1950s to the early 1960s, women were supposed to fall in love, get married and then enjoy being a stay-at-home mom of two to three kids. And if a woman was inclined toward a career, nursing teaching or secretarial jobs were considered appropriate for women’s perceived nurturing skill set and limited brain capacity. In fact, many women went to college to obtain their MRS rather than with intent to utilize whatever other degree they may have received.

However, Elizabeth Zott, was a chemist, a very talented chemist. Due to some unfortunate circumstances – which no one believed – she did not obtain her master’s degree as she had planned. But she was still able to get a job at the Hastings Research Institute as a lab assistant, despite her qualifications and skills. And, despite her obvious intelligence, she still is naïve in that she believes that she will be able to advance at the company based on her skills. 

There she met Calvin Evans, another skilled chemist, in fact a Nobel prize material chemist, who is also an eccentric loner. Theirs is a match made in heaven, which neither of them believes in because heaven’s existence cannot be scientifically proven.  Then Calvin dies and Elizabeth’s life drastically changes when she is fired by the Hastings Research Institute. 

In order to support herself, she takes a job as a television chef, but not like any TV chef we would have imagined.  She refuses suggestions to wear sexier clothes and makeup and refuses to cook the menu items suggested for her to prepare.  Instead, her focus is the chemistry of food, and despite all odds the show becomes a big hit.

While this description might sound a bit odd, the book is an excellent story of love found, and love lost as well as a shocking (to younger women anyway) commentary about how women were thought of in an era not far distant from today.