Chemistry -Reader’s Guide
Named a “Most Anticipated Novel of 2017” by Entertainment Weekly, The Millions, and Bustle
A luminous coming-of-age novel about a young female scientist who must recalibrate her life when her academic career goes off track; perfect for readers of Lab Girl and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You.
“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.” (Amazon summary).
- Why does it matter if diamonds are not the hardest element?
- Why or why not is a pro/con list beneficial?
- Why do family members get preoccupied with certain hereditary traits?
- How is science an art?
- Are there some people who seem to have perfect lives?
- How are traditions and culture imposed upon us?
- Where does beautify reside? Why?
- What impact does fighting parents have on the narrator?
- P40 Why or why not would you agree or disagree with the narrator’s father?
- How does depression and unhappiness taint everything around us?
- Why does she feel she needs to catch up to him to be able to marry him?
- What societal and family mores exist about receiving therapy?
- What causes attraction and romantic love?
- How id emotion important to music?
- Why does Eric stay?
- How does the brain feel exclusion?
- What resides between tragedy and comedy?
- What is the surest way to obtain happiness? Is the shrink right?
- What does psychological warfare look like?
- What powers do parents hold over their children?
- Are any of their relationship problems cultural difference? Why? Why not?
- Is there magic in science? Why or why not?
- What would you do if you had a million dollars?
- How is solitude a fortress?
- Does science require sacrifice? Why? Why not?
- How does one prepare their mind?
- Why is middle school so difficult?
- How would you describe stage fright?
- Why does the narrator continue to look for purpose?
- What is the attraction of leaf peeping?
- Why does the narrator retrace and complete the same activities as she did when she was with Eric?
- Why do onlookers enjoy talking and criticizing?
- What causes a mother to leave her child?
- Why doesn’t the best friend have a name? Other characters lack names?
- What is the definition of a good wife and mother?
- In life what is perfect reproducibility?
- How does the weather represent the mood of the narrator?
- Why does the mother choose to stay behind?
- Do lower expectations create happiness? Why? Why not?
- Should one care about what others think of them? Why? Why not?
- Does the mother merit loyalty? Why? Why not?
- Why does she need to maintain her Chinese identity?
- Is there a balance between science and superstition? Why? Why not?
- What is self-punishing and why do we do it?
- Do women want it all? Why? Why not?
- Why does she prefer to not have a smart dog?
- What causes a child to feel they’ve failed a parent?
- How does the narrator use humor?
- Why does she not reply to Eric?
- Why does the father fail to share stores of his family?
- Is it true that without parents you lose contact with the family? Why? Why not?
- How should her story end?
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.