I read a lot of books that are smart or interesting or creative and those can be fun and worthwhile but they don’t touch my heart. They don’t present characters that, though fictional, feel real and relatable. They aren’t moving in a way that puts a lump in your throat and leaves you uncertain of whether to laugh or cry. For me, Chemistry by Weike Wang did all of those things. I feel into it, got wrapped up in it and adored every minute of it.
The main character is a grad student working on her PhD but her boyfriend Eric (who has just proposed) is a determined and well-adjusted graduate, her best friend is a successful doctor, her father has made it from China to America, learned English and made it through graduate school himself. This all makes it increasingly impossible for her not compare herself or stand up to the pressure from her parents. Her story is specific but her feelings of uncertainty and not knowing what to do or which path to take are so universal. I felt heartbroken for the narrator but I also felt heartbroken for everyone who has felt lost, myself included.
Have you ever taken a class where you were told “show, don’t tell”? This book felt like the epitome of showing. The narrator doesn’t need to tell you her parents are hard on her because she relays moments from her childhood where her father drills her with mathematical equations or shares a heartbreaking phone call where she confesses she cannot finish her PhD only to have her mother say, “You are nothing to me without that degree.” Snipets of interactions and conversation between she and Eric do more to paint a picture of their relationship than any description could. The prose is concise yet says so much. I loved this about the book. And tonally, it is both amusing and gut-wrenching, striking the perfect balance between the two.
This book is so endearing and I hope, if you pick it up, that you’ll love it as much as I did ♥