ARC – Chemistry by Weike Wang
March 28, 2017
A Chinese-American chemist muses on her personal life using a tightly concise writing style to maximum original effect. This introspective approach strings together little known scientific facts leading to perspective changing and often gently amusing epiphanies, one after another. So not a bandwagon jumper. I’m thinking with the solid appeal here of biographies like Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (which has circulated 220 times and still has a short queue) this could be successful as well as fiction crossover. Comment first to claim.
Publisher summary: 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.