A Novel

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, our unnamed narrator finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. Tormented by her failed research, there's another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from 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. 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?
"A novel about a young Chinese woman whose graduate studies in chemistry go off track and lead her to discover the truths about her goals and desires"--
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781524731755
Characteristics: 1 online resource (211 pages)

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Sep 25, 2017

This is one of those books that's written like this. You're in the narrator's head. What they think is what you read. You get an unfiltered glimpse inside their mind. They'll tell you what is going on. It's all rather tedious.

I suppose this is chalked up as a character study of a protagonist trapped between cultures. She's navigating the expectations of her Chinese-emigre parents and the follow-your-bliss freedom of growing up in America. We follow along (indeed, there is very little discovery here) as she experiences uncertainly in life and love, blowing through a year of her life with little focus or direction. A lot like this book.

There are clever turns of phrase, and the scientific asides are a fun diversion. The little snippets of chemistry, physics and math providing the only indication of something unique under the surface. Perhaps I'm just hard to please, but for a book about relationships, both familial, friendly and intimate, Chemistry elicited very little reaction.

Aug 27, 2017

I just can't understand the accolades for this dull, amateurish first novel. The protagonist muses ad nauseum in the first person about her long suffering, slightly boring boyfriend, and there are a plethora of sardonic comments about her work, her family, and people she encounters in daily life which are supposed to show she has an "edge". Here's my take. She obviously knows chemistry, but her writing has none. Don't quit your day job. If you're going to write a novel in the first person, you better be talented. For a brilliant first person novel try "The Destroyers " by Christopher Bollen.

Aug 07, 2017

Painfully sad and very realistic read. Novel about parental unrealistic expectations, lack of affection and one person struggles to fit in. Profoundly honest too. Chapters are short and sentences are even shorter. Very sharp writing and to the point. Very nerdy too. Loved it!

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

"I tell the math student, Me and the dog make two, and two points define a line. ...You need three or more points to define a shape...."

"The breaking of bond requires energy. This is a fundamental law of thermodynamics."
" be a good mother and wife is to be a perpetual motion machine...."

"Fear of following the other person despite that person being good and reasonable and kind...What phobia is that? Stupidity?"

lindab2662 Aug 07, 2017

Funny and poignant book about a twenty something Chinese American learning to navigate career, relationships and family. A quick read. Very enjoyable.

s33meread Aug 06, 2017

PhD candidates "cracking" under the pressure of academia is not unheard of, but this author has chosen to explore how that disciplined life moves next to human relationships. The story told through the lens of this bright, yet quietly conflicted young woman is insightful, warm and honest.

Jul 26, 2017

Chemistry is told in a non-linear fashion, with pieces of the story doled out in bite size pieces mixed in with collaborating scientific facts. The style of the narration matches the protagonists' state of mind, and the potential breakdown she faces. I found it kind of fascinating, but lacked the bite necessary to make it really good.

Jun 28, 2017

The story has the pace of a refreshing, brisk walk. The author's background in chemistry shows up as the atoms that hold together the structure of the story with humor in the space between. The narrator, main character, has a childhood that lacked affection and emphasized knowledge and no choice. Here is a story that characterizes these traits through an interesting, quirky protagonist and her struggle toward self-discovery.

debwalker May 30, 2017

Burnout at PhD level. Funny take on growing up in the pressure cooker. What's it like?


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at WCLS

To Top