21 May 2017

Chemistry by Weike Wang

Summary from Goodreads:
Praised by Ha Jin as "a genuine piece of literature: wise, humorous, and moving," and perfect for readers of Lab Girl and Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You, a luminous coming-of-age novel about a young female scientist who must recalibrate her life when her academic career goes off track.

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.

Chemistry is a book that fits in between Dear Committee Members and Dept. of Speculation - which is an intersection that I didn't know I needed. I really enjoyed the narrator as she winds up having to break almost everything in her life from her academic career to her long-term relationships before she can figure out who she is or what she wants. The writing is very wry and there's a lot of science and chemistry (NERD CRED FTW). I had some trouble at the beginning with the tenses - present tense is used for EVERYTHING, including events from the narrator's childhood, and I found that kind of annoying.

Dear FTC: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss

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