- Title: Chemistry
- Author: Weike Wang
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Structure: First-person linear narration
- First Line: “The boy asked the girl a question.”
Synopsis: Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own.
Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.
Looking at the title of this book, I wasn’t into it. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I think the synopsis makes it sound dull, and it’s not. I ended up loving this book from the first page! I have nothing but high praises for this book (which, if you know my book review, is a big deal). So, let’s dive in!
- This book is magic. It’s a prose that reads like poetry, which, in my opinion, is one of the rarest forms of writing. This is what initially sucked me in. I am stunned that this is Wang’s first novel. It’s a complete masterpiece of work.
- There were so many “hit hard” moments, or moments where something said was so profound that I literally had stop and put down the book. This is definitely one of those books that you will want to read in a bookclub just to discuss the meaning and what other people got out of it. I can go into deep detail on the title alone.
- I laughed out loud during many points. The main character is so lovable and relatable. This isn’t “punch you in the gut” funny, but more of a sophisticated, subtle hilarity, which I tend to like a little better.
- I truly enjoyed learning about Chinese culture. I’ve learned bits and pieces here and there working with ESL students, as most of them have come from China in Tucson. However, it was incredibly interesting to read more about it.
- It is a fast read. It’s barely 200 pages and you can easily read it in a day. There are no chapters. The book has a fantastic flow to it. So much so that once you get started, you’re going to be challenged to find a stopping point.
This isn’t a bad thing (at least not to a nerd like me), but there is some entry-level chemistry talk in there. You’re not missing any of the main points if you can’t follow. I just want you to be forewarned that Wang wasn’t being coy when she titled it “Chemistry”.
The great news is that there is one strong curse word in there and no other crude parts! Which means, I think this would be a great read for middle school/high school and beyond. So, any parents or teachers out there who looking for book, this is an amazing pick.
THE SWEET SPOTS
In this section, I cover some of my deeper, personal thoughts. Books are meant to make you think. I always think the best books are the ones that help you discover pieces of yourself.
- Did this book remind you of anything that has happened to you?: At one point during my undergraduate career, I was a science major. I completely and totally understand the notion of snapping under the pressure of the sciences. Some people can powerhouse through and, frankly, get fairly lucky. Others aren’t as resilient and the pressure wears down on them. I’d say I was in the latter category, so very relatable.
- Did this book give you any new ideas of yourself?: In a strange way, I feel like it gave me insight to how I function as a person. The way the main character spoke and her thought process felt similar to mine and I felt like I could see where she was going before she got there. It was interesting to watch unfold and it also showed me some areas that I can probably work on when I’m in that space.
- What lesson did you learn?: There are many Chinese proverbs spread throughout it, which I loved. There was one stand-out quote for me that is forever engrained in my mind: “You want to know how to get through life? Pay attention.” Honest is the best policy, when you’re ready to face the truth. Friends are the family we choose. It’s okay to come unhinged sometimes because the pieces may come back together better than before.
I’d give this an easy 5/5 stars. I absolutely think that this is a book everyone should read through at least once. This book is powerful, profound, and heartwarming. I mean that in the sincerest way and not as buzzwords on a back cover. I would say this is my favorite book so far of 2017.
GET YOUR COPY HERE!
I received Chemistry from the Book of the Month Club for June 2017. It was so great to receive personalized book recommendations at my doorstep! Honestly, I’m not sure if I would’ve picked up and experienced Woman No. 17 if it wasn’t for BOTM. You can join the club here for under $20 a month!
*Thank you Book of the Month Club for sponsoring this. All opinions are my own.