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Below is Carol Martin’s book review.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zott works at the Hastings Research Institute and is quite good what she does, but she is a woman, and it is the 60s and no one really cares. She lives with Calvin, another employee of the Institute. Calvin has bought a ring and unfortunately proposes to her in the cafeteria at lunchtime, with everyone pausing their eating to watch. Well, she turns him down. She’s happy just to have things stay as they are and they do.

Calvin does decide to have her join his rowing club, which meets early in the morning. This is a serious and competitive team which she hadn’t counted on. She also can’t swim, and as they often flip the boat over that’s another problem.

The book meanders on and at one point Elizabeth has a cooking show on TV which becomes very popular. Lessons in Chemistry is witty at times and an entertaining read. I would say it’s a little quirky.

Below is Jane Shipp’s Book Review.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Often these days, when a writer has written a best seller or an award winner, there is a tendency to develop a kind of formula in subsequent novels. Even very good writers sometimes do this. Not so Louise Erdrich, who is unpredictable in the most positive way. With The Sentence she has presented altogether believable characters, particularly her narrator, whose struggle with the mystical might suggest otherwise. Interwoven in this unusual plot is the importance of books, which will appeal to any booklover, along with the impact of social events such as Covid and the killing of George Floyd.

Tookie has had a checkered past, followed by a harrowing and undeserved life experience, but she has a second chance when she meets and marries an old flame, Pollux. Their marriage is warm and loving, a genuine partnership and meeting of the minds. However, when Tookie takes a job in a bookstore, she runs into an unexpected challenge: a ghost, a troubled and threatening spirit who seems to be blaming her for some deed unknown. The theme running through the entire book is that of regret and pain, anger and guilt, something many of us suffer from time to time. Tookie suffers it in outsized proportions.

There is humor in this book, detail and dialogue skillfully managed, optimism in the form of an unexpected baby’s arrival, and an array of interesting and benevolent characters; love of books ties them together. The author’s touch is alternatively light and sober, which makes for the unexpected, in one of those books that keeps you reading in the middle of the night. If this volume intrigues you, try also Erdrich’s The Round House, published in 2012. Both are influenced by the Native American culture in which Erdrich participated as she was growing up, and for that reason alone are eye-opening.

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