Lessons In Chemistry Ending Explained: Insightful & Touching

Written by author Bonnie Jean Garmus, the 2022 released novel titled, Lessons in Chemistry, is a story of holding on to hope, being true to yourself, and pushing your limits to break away from norms just like our lead did. Continue reading below to find more information on the author, the book, Lessons in Chemistry, and its ending explained.

The book follows the story of one Elizabeth Zott, an ‘unapologetic and inspiring’ woman and chemist in the 1960s, who finds her career as a chemist taking a slight detour when she abruptly lands a job as the host of a famous television cooking show.

Elizabeth is not an average woman of the 60s, what is even better is that according to her logical brain, there is no ‘average’ woman at all. In a time when equality and equal representation meant different things to different people, including women, Elizabeth sets an example for many to be their best brazen selves and for women to take risks and push their limits.

Elizabeth also happens to be the only woman in an all-male research team at the Hastings Research Institute, where one lonely yet genius gentleman ends up falling in love with her mind. While the chemistry between these two sizzles, realization also dawns upon Elizabeth that she has not only become a star host of a beloved cooking show, but in a way, she may have become a symbol of revolution for the many women who watch her.

Author Bonnie Garmus has done a great job trying to keep up with the way of speaking of the 60s, to a point where she has revealed having read texts from that time to make sure she was not making use of today’s language in her book. Over all the book is a vibrant story of hope and how Elizabeth ends up becoming just the push women needed to spread their wings a little wider.

It was recently announced the book would be adapted into a series by Apple TV+. With the cast decided, the show is likely to be released in October 2023.

Author Bonnie Jeans Garmus (Credits: The Bookseller)
Author Bonnie Jeans Garmus (Credits: The Bookseller)

Lessons In Chemistry Ending Explained

Elizabeth Zott, our bold and daring main lead wishes to do so much in life but like things were for women at the time, society gets in the way. She is introduced as a woman of science, working at the Hastings Research Institute. But considering it is the 1960s and her boss is a man, a misogynist male, he does his best to make sure she does not get any promotions or major work, she is just a silly little woman after all.

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Working in a male-dominated field with a misogynistic boss, Zott struggles with her research and the lack of resources and finds herself turning to one fellow scientist named Calvin Evans for help. Calvin assumes that Elizabeth was a secretary but later finds himself apologizing for his mistake. 

Calvin Evans is introduced as this genius but loner scientist guy in the book who has numerous achievements under his belt but instead of being the popular one he lives his life as a recluse. With Calvin’s help, Elizabeth manages to get a start on her research but it does not take her long to realize that there is not just one obstacle that she will have to face.

The Meet-Cute

Through work, Elizabeth and Calvin get closer and the two eventually start meeting and dating each other. And even though they wish to keep things private, this was a time when gossip was the main source of people’s entertainment, meaning that word of the two dating soon spread out.

Elizabeth makes it very clear to Calvin that she does not want to get into the trouble of marrying someone and going against the norm even more, she also says she does not want to have kids. 

She wishes to hold on to her dear independence till the end and the couple still stay with each other, eventually moving in together. While her research on abiogenesis continues, we get to know our leads even more as the two reveal more about their childhood.

Bonnie Garmus with her debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry (Credits: GMA)
Bonnie Garmus with her debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry (Credits: GMA)

Elizabeth tells about her family and Calvin reveals about his, saying that he grew up in an orphanage and that his parents died early on in an accident.

This is not the truth because a man who he thought to be his biological father, an extremely rich man was alive and had even donated a lot of money to the boy’s home where he had stayed. All of this remains unsaid, with the only person actually knowing this truth being a pen pal named Wakely.

Some Unexpected Changes

The two continue living their dream life together, but it all shatters when Calvin ends up turning dead after he slipped and got crushed under a car. And as if this tragedy was not enough along with the fact that not only did Elizabeth lose the love of her life but her sole support system at her workplace, she also finds out that she was pregnant with Calvin’s child.

The news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy breaks out, and in a society that could barely accept her as a working woman, accepting her as a working mother would be too controversial causing Elizabeth to be fired from her job.

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We skip a few years and Madeline starts going to school, which is the right time for Zott to go back to Hastings to ask for her job back.

She does, but the unintelligent species that her boss is steals all of her abiogenesis research material and publishes it as his own—a classic move by an incompetent man. Zott quits the job but gets her hands on a box full of Calvin’s stuff before leaving, which has all of his pen pal’s letters and other works.

Eventually, she gets a call from Walter Pine, offering her a job on a cooking show. In a desperate need for money, she agreed to host the cooking show but refuses to be objectified by the crew who wishes to look sexy on the screen.

She adds her own twist to the show, wears her own wardrobe, and introduces science to the ladies watching. She refuses to be the pretty eye candy and instead indulges in telling the viewers more about the science behind cooking. 

Elizabeh and Calvin in the show, Lessons in Chemistry adapted from the novel of the same name (Credits: Harper's BAZAAR)
Elizabeth and Calvin in the show, Lessons in Chemistry adapted from the novel of the same name (Credits: Harper’s BAZAAR)

Calvin’s Secret

Madeline, just as intelligent as her parents, does some snooping around behind her mother’s back to find the truth behind Calvin’s parents. After much trouble, she gets her hands on the foundation that was funding the home, Parker Foundation, and while she is busy with her detective life, Elizabeth continues with the show with her own style and twist.

She runs into trouble but soon manages to get sponsorships to her show getting more and more popular by the day. Approached by a magazine for an interview, she tells the interviewer everything about her life but the interviewer ends up focusing only on her scientific achievements leaving out whatever Zott blabbered about her personal life.

But the article that got published showed her as an average woman who was nothing but pretty. This is discouraging for her but the interviewer does his best trying to get his actual version of the article printed somewhere, for people to see and read. 

Through some heavy work, the article gets published, and Elizabeth realizes that she is a woman of science and wishes to go back to her research. After months of struggling, she gets a call from Hastings asking her to come back and complete her research which would be funded by Parker Foundation.

The End

It is revealed that the foundation read the Life magazine interview and did some digging into Elizabeth’s boss, only to find out about multiple of his misdeeds and his unfair treatment toward the female employees. They manage to get him fired, bring back Elizabeth, and fund her research fully.

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It is also revealed that the foundation was led by a woman named Avery Parker, who was Calvin’s biological mother and found herself with no choice but to give him up for adoption when she found out that she was pregnant as a teen.

But her lawyer made sure to look after Calvin from afar making sure he was fine, until his untimely death. It was also this lawyer, Mr. WIlson, that Calvin always thought to be his rich biological father.

Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott in the show, Lessons in Chemistry, inspired by the novel of the same name (Credits: Daily Mail)
Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott in the show, Lessons in Chemistry, inspired by the novel of the same name (Credits: Daily Mail)

Avery did not get to meet her son even once but she expresses her wish to become a part of Elizabeth’s family, to be close to Madeline, and possibly live as a family in the future.

The book finally ends with Elizabeth finally getting the respect she deserves along with a job position that matches her caliber. And she also finally gets to resume her abiogenesis research. 

Our Thoughts

Lessons in Chemistry beautifully describes the struggles of a woman with ambitions and dreams during the 1960s. How Elizabeth had to face criticism no matter what she did and how her male counterparts could go on doing the worst of things but no one would bat an eye to them.

And how the world questions everything a woman does, so quickly doubts her and her abilities, infantilizing her capabilities, wanting to reduce her to nothing but a pretty thing to look at, this book covers it all. We also see the struggle of mothers as well, be it with Avery, who got pregnant as a teen in a society that took pride in shaming women just for existing.

Knowing that being an unwed teen mother would bring an end to her life, she had to part with her baby. Another is the struggle of Elizabeth, who also faces the consequences of being a widowed mother, where she gets fired and left without any source of money.

Lessons in Chemistry manages to contain all of the struggles women then had to face including the fact that if a man and a woman of equal caliber existed together, the women would have to face far more obstacles than the man in reaching the same level of success. 

The blatant rage-inducing misogyny and the casual sexism are a sad reality that many women were put through, parts of which continue to exist even now. There is a reason why this book speaks to feminists on so many levels, as it makes them sympathize and sadly, relate to the character of Elizabeth a bit too much.

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