Saturday, June 9, 2018

Chemistry, by Weike Wang


The unnamed narrator of this episodic, stream-of-consciousness novel is a young Chinese-American chemistry grad student.  As the only daughter of immigrant parents, much is expected of her.  But her parent’s unhappy marriage (and they are so different, her mother a sophisticated Shanghai-born woman and her father from a rough, rural background), makes her hesitate to accept her long-time, live-in boyfriend, Eric’s, proposal of marriage.  Aren’t all marriages doomed?  Her best friend is married and in a seemingly ideal relationship with a new baby on the way. Then her husband falls for the clich√© "secretary at work," and this seems to validate the narrator’s position.  Eric is also a chemistry PhD candidate, but his research and path to employment at the university he wishes to be at have been smooth.  Her career path, not so much.   She has a minor breakdown in the lab – involving real breakage – and loses what little support she had from her advisor.  When Eric leaves for his new position in Ohio without an answer to his question, she struggles to make sense of what she really wants.  This synopsis doesn’t do justice to the richness of the novel.  211 pp.

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