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  • Nan Russell

My Favorite Novel for November

I passed over Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus’ debut novel when it came out in 2022. I passed over it when it stayed on the New York Times best seller list week after week. And I passed over it when it was recommended to me by more than one friend.

Why? I guess I wasn’t intrigued by the story’s logline in the Times: “A scientist and single mother living in California in the 1960s becomes a star on a TV cooking show,” since I’m not into cooking. But the longer it stayed on that list, the more curious I became about its draw. Plus, as a writer, I’m always interested in understanding why a book becomes a success.

So, this month, needing an audio book to listen to during recovery from a bit of surgery, I chose Lessons in Chemistry. Now, not only do I understand why readers love it, but I’ve become an enthusiastic fan myself of this humorous and poignant story, and the talented author who masterfully illuminates some of the challenges and stereotypes working woman faced in the 1950s and 60s.

I was a child then, and my mother was the only mother in our neighborhood who worked. Her own struggles and stories echoed with a renewed understanding as I learned about those of fired chemist turned TV host, Elizabeth Zott.

While some novels come with hype, Lessons in Chemistry, comes with heart, humor, energy, and charm as it illuminates both historical elements and contemporary challenges women face.

If I could give it more than five stars, I would!

About the author -


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