Lessons In Chemistry - Bonnie Garmus

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

Part of my motivation in picking up this book was that I had seen it in the bestsellers list for a couple of weeks, and when the book became available to borrow, I could not resist.

Having finished the book, I can see why it has its charm. It's enjoyable. It is also intentionally written to cater to a broad audience. After listening to the author's interview following the audiobook, the characters were inspired by the author's experiences of being mistreated at work, which she originally wrote about in her first draft.

There are many interesting characters in this book, however here are two that I will remember fondly -

  • Elizabeth Zott
  • 6:30

Elizabeth Zott

“That’s the hydrogen bond for you, ladies — a chemical reminder that if things seem too good to be true, they probably are.”

This story is set in the 1950s, and Elizabeth Zott is the protagonist of this book and almost reminds me of a female version of Sheldon Cooper (played by James Parsons in the CBS Sitcom - Big Bang Theory)

She is a gifted chemist forced to drop out of a Doctoral program. At Hastings Research Lab, she meets Calvin, another gifted chemist. The two fall in love and move in together.

“It was a form of naïveté, he thought, the way she continued to believe that all it took to get through life was grit. Sure, grit was critical, but it also took luck, and if luck wasn’t available, then help. Everyone needed help. But maybe because she’d never been offered any, she refused to believe in it.”

Later, Elizabeth Zott is forced to raise her daughter as a single mother.

An encounter with a TV producer causes her to get a job as a host on a TV Show that turns into a nationwide hit.

Throughout her career as a chemist and a TV host, she had to face and overcome misogyny and sexism.

  • Her research isn’t taken seriously and, later, stolen and appropriated as another.
  • She doesn’t get paid equally as her male counterparts
  • She is fired after it is discovered that she is pregnant
  • She is forced to change her appearance and hosting style on her cooking show by an executive despite having a syndicated hit on his hands.

The author of this book is an avid rower, which influenced the characters, Elizabeth and Calvin, to be rowers too.

“rowing is almost exactly like raising kids. Both require patience, endurance, strength, and commitment. And neither allow us to see where we’re going—only where we’ve been. I find that very reassuring, don’t you?”


“Hello, Creature, he transmitted as he pressed his ear into Elizabeth’s belly. It’s me, Six-Thirty. I’m the dog.”

If Elizabeth Zott is the leading actress, 6:30 would be the supporting actor.

This dog is very intelligent, has a grasp of an extensive vocabulary, and by the end of the book, can understand up to 900 or more words. The character is based on the Author’s dog Ninety-Nine, who was intelligent enough to learn German when they took the dog on a European trip.

6:30 is a police dog that failed explosives training and, as a result, was abandoned by its trainer. Elizabeth Zott adopts 6:30, and the dog redeems itself after sniffing out TNT in the handbag of one of the audience members.

Its adventures in this book remind me of Wishbone from the Wishbone series, albeit 6:30 is a much bigger dog in this book.

Other Quotes

“I don’t have hopes,” Mad explained, studying the address. “I have faith.” He looked at her in surprise. “Well, that’s a funny word to hear coming from you.” “How come?” “Because,” he said, “well, you know. Religion is based on faith.” “But you realize,” she said carefully, as if not to embarrass him further, “that faith isn’t based on religion. Right?”

“No surprise. Idiots make it into every company. They tend to interview well.”