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Book club questions for Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus takes a closer look at this quirky and entertaining novel about a woman determined to break stereotypes. There will be spoilers so for more context about the novel, check out my spoiler-free review first.
I quite enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry! It’s such a unique and entertaining story. And I really loved the cooking show aspect and what it eventually represented.
In my opinion, there are some uneven aspects but all in all, a great novel.
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.
Book Club Questions for Lessons in Chemistry
- What is your overall impression of Elizabeth as a protagonist? Why was chemistry the right career choice for her?
- She enters a male-dominated field and it’s a constant uphill battle. Have you ever worked in a field like that and/or been in a similar type situation? Could you relate to what Elizabeth went through?
- How did her unusual upbringing and violate relationship with her parents impact how she approached relationships as an adult?
- What did you think about the eventual romance between Elizabeth and Calvin? Why were they a good fit, aka, full of ‘true chemistry’?
- Calvin proposes but Elizabeth says no. What was behind her reasoning for turning down the proposal?
- Why do you suspect the author decided to include the viewpoint of their dog, Six-Thirty?
- Let’s talk about Calvin’s death and how that changed everything for Elizabeth.
- When Elizabeth finds out she’s pregnant, she’s less than thrilled. She never planned to become a mother and with Calvin’s death, she’s now all alone to raise their child. In what ways did motherhood surprise Elizabeth?
- The story features a great supporting cast from the neighbor Harriet (who eventually becomes like an extended family member) to Elizabeth’s producer Walter (who becomes her best friend). Who was your favorite supporting character and why?
- Why did Elizabeth agree to host the cooking show? Why did the show resonate with women across the country?
- Why did Elizabeth eventually leave the cooking show?
- What are your thoughts about the reveal that Calvin’s real life mother was the one behind the funds to Elizabeth’s scientific research?
- What did you think about the ending overall? What happens next for Elizabeth?
- Did you feel like you learned any lessons or anything else from reading the novel? Do you have any favorite passages or scenes you would like to discuss?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Lessons in Chemistry! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Maid by Nita Prose
Another novel with a strong and memorable female protagonist is The Maid by Nita Prose.
Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.
Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.
But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?
A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
If you’re searching for a novel with a similar tone—humor, heart and some quirk mixed in—check out The Guncle by Steven Rowley.
Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is, honestly, overwhelmed.
So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled acting career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting–even if temporary–isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.
With the humor and heart we’ve come to expect from bestselling author Steven Rowley, The Guncle is a moving tribute to the power of love, patience, and family in even the most trying of times.