Lessons in Chemistry was published in April of 2022 and immediately jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list where it has stayed for over a year. The Lessons in Chemistry book club questions below can hopefully be a starting point for your book club discussion for your Lessons in Chemistry book club.
Below you will find a review, Lessons in Chemistry summary, the ending, and book club discussion questions for Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Some of the questions may have spoilers but they are clearly marked. We have tried to keep the site as spoiler free as possible but, we thought the Lessons in Chemistry book club questions would not be complete without some details. Feel free to use the page jumps to avoid the ending if you have not read the book.
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Lessons in Chemistry Book Club Questions and Discussion Guide
Book Review // Summary // Lessons in Chemistry Ending Explained //
Lessons in Chemistry Book Club Questions // Shop for Lessons in Chemistry // Lessons in Chemistry book club ideas // Book Recommendations
Lessons in Chemistry Review
April 2022 GMA Book Club Pick
I don’t even know where to begin with this unique contemporary fiction story. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the 50s when women were expected to know their place in society — their place being the kitchen and the home.
Elizabeth struggles to be taken seriously in her field and as a single mother, in this amazing book. So when an offer to host a cooking show for women is put in her path, she reluctantly takes it.
She uses her no-nonsense attitude and chemistry principles to teach the women in America to not only cook but to follow their dreams outside of the home.
Zott is a quirky character who reminds us a little bit of Eleanor Oliphant with a charming daughter and a dog whose inner monologue is as quirky as hers. There are so many book club questions for Lessons in Chemistry and we have a few tips for making your Lessons in Chemistry book club a success.
Lessons in Chemistry Summary
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus begins in November 1961. Elizabeth’s audit packs her daughter’s school lunches before heading off to work as the star of a cooking show called Supper at Six.
In January 1952 Elizabeth is a chemist at the Hastings Research Institute. She had been a doctoral candidate at UCLA, but her acceptance to the program was rescinded after she stabbed her advisor with a pencil when he sexually assaulted her. There, she meets Calvin Evans, a brilliant chemist. they become close friends and eventually, they fall in love and move in together. Elizabeth is adamant that they will never get married because she doesn’t want her accomplishments to be associated with his name and she does not want kids. Instead, they adopt a dog who they name Six-Thirty.
One morning while running, Calvin dies in an accident leaving Elizabeth pregnant with his child. She is also fired from her job and with no way to support herself and the baby she begins to consult from home. Once Madeline is born, she realizes that she will have to do more and takes up hosting Supper at Six. Once again Elizabeth faces the challenges associated with working in a male-dominated industry. Her show, however, becomes a huge success and empowers women from across the country.
This book deals with many themes including sexual assault, suicide, sexism, LGBTQ acceptance, adoption, and more.
Lessons in Chemistry Ending Explained (With Small Spoilers)
Elizabeth discovers the truth about Calvin’s past in the boys’ home. Avery Parker, the head of the Parker Foundation is actually Calvin’s biological mother. She had tried to reach out to her son as soon as she learned the truth. She thought he had died. Eventually, Avery discovers the truth about Elizabeth’s former boss and offers her a position as the head of chemistry. She is able to continue her work on abiogenesis that she had started a decade earlier.
Lessons in Chemistry Book Club Questions (Small Spoilers)
These book club questions for Lessons in Chemistry are a great way to start the conversation. Feel free to use these as a template for your book club or think of your own as well.
- How did the late 1950s and early 1960s society push women into subservient roles?
- Do you think Elizabeth Zott’s experience in the workplace would be different if the story took place today?
- Why do women still bear the majority of housework and child-raising responsibilities despite having an increased presence in the workplace?
- Elizabeth Zott’s self-education through her library card was an essential tool for her success. In today’s technologically advanced world, do you still believe libraries are important? If so, why?
- How do you think this story would have been different if it took place now?
- Elizabeth refuses Calvin’s marriage proposal because she did not want her achievements overshadowed by his name. How do you feel about women being recognized under their husbands’ names, even if they have maintained their own identities?
- What are some of the specific acts of sexism in the book?
- What does the pencil symbolize in Lessons in Chemistry?
- The book uses rowing as a metaphor throughout the book. Why do you think Garmus did this?
- Do you agree with the rowing metaphor?
- What do you think about the relationship between Elizabeth and Calvin?
- Do you think they were a good fit and why?
- How did Calvin’s death change life for Elizabeth?
- Six-Thirty is one of the most important characters in the book. Why do you think the author chose to write from the point of view of a dog?
- Six-Thirty makes a lot of observations about human behavior. Do you agree with his observations?
- What do you think of Elizabeth Zott as a mother?
- What do you think are Elizabeth Zott’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Why did Elizabeth agree to host the cooking show?
- Why do you think “Supper at Six” was successful?
- At the end of every episode of Supper at Six, Elizabeth says “Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.” What do you think about that quote?
- Why did Elizabeth leave the cooking show and do you think she made the right choice?
- How did you feel about the ending?
- What do you think is next for Elizabeth?
- SPOILERS BELOW
How did you feel at the end when you discovered that Calvin’s mother was responsible for the funding for Elizabeth’s research?
Shop for Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Lessons in Chemistry Book Club Ideas
There are so many different ways you can approach food if you are having a Lessons in Chemistry book club. The story takes place in the ’50s and 60’s so you might want to begin there. Fun things to serve for appetizers are:
For dessert, you can also have fondue but you would want to do chocolate instead. Bundt cakes were popular in the 60s along with Ambrosia (think fruit plus mini marshmallows).
Elizabeth Zott teaches how to make family meals like stews and casseroles with her chemistry expertise. Feel free to add these to your Lessons in Chemistry book club if you are up to the task.
There are so many choices for drinks that are great throwbacks to the 50s and 60s if you are hosting a Lessons in Chemistry book club.
Book Recommendations: What to Read After Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
January 2022 Good Morning America Pick
Molly Gray works as a maid in a grand hotel and gets joy from leaving things orderly and pristine. Molly struggles with reading social cues and has had even more trouble since her gran can no longer help.
When Molly finds a dead body in a room at the hotel, she becomes a prime suspect and will need all her friends to help her.
It is also a perfect book for books like Lessons in Chemistry. If you read the Lessons in Chemistry summary, you will see that Elizabeth Zott is not like anyone else. If you are holding a Lessons in Chemistry book club, this might be the perfect book to read next.
Don’t forget to check out our The Maid Book Club Questions: Perfect for 2023.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Woman Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
This true and amazing story of the Black female mathematicians and their role in the space race reads like a fiction novel.
So many people know this story because of the movie but, the book gives so many more details- as is usually the case with adaptations. These women, who were originally sent to teach math in the South’s segregated schools, were called into service during WWII.
They were some of the most brilliant minds of their generation. They eventually helped in the race to space during the cold war. This non-fiction pick from books like Lessons in Chemistry was captivating from start to finish. If you have finished your lessons in Chemistry book club and are looking for a non-fiction book, this is a wonderful choice.
If you loved Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus and are looking for books like it, check out this list.
If you love this post, you will love our list of best books for book clubs to read.
Can you give me some book club questions for Lessons in Chemistry?
1. How did the late 1950s and early 1960s society push women into subservient roles?
2. Do you think Elizabeth Zott’s experience in the workplace would be different if the story took place today?
3. Why do women still bear the majority of housework and child-raising responsibilities despite having an increased presence in the workplace?
What should I do for a Lessons in Chemistry book club?
In addition to using the Lessons in Chemistry book club discussion questions, you can provide appetizers, desserts, and drinks that are appropriate for the late 1950s and early 1960s.