By Bonnie Garmus
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY is for all the women who are told they aren’t enough: educated enough, experienced enough, talented enough, professional enough to achieve their dreams.
At the heart of this wonderful, hopeful, courageous and inspiring story is Elizabeth Zott, “a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanor of someone who was not average and never would be.”
Raised by a pair of con-artists who drove her beloved brother to suicide because he was gay, Elizabeth has known since she was 10 that she was a scientist.
Elizabeth runs an obstacle course of mid-century barriers to women in work, life and love: sexual harassment in graduate school, work assignments that underuse her talents, being humiliated and demeaned at work, struggling with whether marriage would bury her identity within her husband’s, and single motherhood, among others.
Along the way, she meets some wonderful and supportive men: Calvin Evans, the star chemist at the Hastings Institute where they both work, who falls in love with her mind as much as her person, and Walter Pine, a divorced single parent in charge of afternoon programming at the local television station, who is as brow-beaten by his boss as she is by hers.
When Elizabeth reaches the last straw with her boss at Hastings Research Institute, she accepts an offer from Walter to do an afternoon cooking show. In her inimitable style, Elizabeth refuses to wear skin-tight clothing and waltz around a studio kitchen with a cocktail talking about how to please the Big Man when he comes home from work for dinner. That’s what Walter’s boss wants.
Elizabeth plans her show around the chemistry of cooking: what makes cakes and breads rise, the best way to cook a steak and how to mix ingredients. The result is “Supper at Six,” which soon becomes must-see TV for anyone responsible for getting dinner on the table.
Elizabeth focuses on hearty stews, casseroles and food made in big metal pans and served in decent portions. “And she insisted that any dish worth making was worth making in under an hour.”
One of the wonderful things about Elizabeth Zott is not only does she stand up for herself and face down people who would destroy her dreams, but her courage is contagious.
As she tells her television audience, “Whenever you start doubting yourself, 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 talent to lie dormant, ladies. Design your own future. When you go home today, ask yourself what you will change. And then get started.”
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY was published in 2022 by Doubleday.
The Author: Bonnie Garmus (1957 – )
Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked in technology, medicine and education. She was an open-water swimmer, a rower and mother to two daughters.
Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and hr dog, 99.
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