Weike Wang’s Chemistry

Coming of Age, Fiction

Brief review of a fictional chemist’s introspective ramblings.

This book is utterly frustrating — I get that that’s the point. Here’s this nameless character who’s at a turning point of her life: finishing her PhD program and deciding on a long-term boyfriend’s marriage proposal(s). This is where she begins to question everything and starts to wonder what it is that she wants out of life. That plot makes for most coming of age books, doesn’t it?

Well this one’s a bit different. The book’s writing style is one I haven’t seen before — completely devoid of character names and chapters. The sentence structure is all in the present tense with no flow in thought — a stream of consciousness that initially doesn’t make sense. You’re thrown inside this chemist’s head without any framework. Her narrative is the only one you hear. You hear her thoughts, what she thinks about her job, her parents, her best friend, and her boyfriend, Eric, who interestingly is the only one to get a name in the book. The narrative is all over the place with no real plot other than introspection.

In order to truly understand the character, you have to keep reading. I wanted to understand her and find some semblance of closure so I trudged on. Her thoughts finally start to make sense once you realize how she was raised, what scares her, and why she’s scared of committing to anything. 

JK Rowling (bless her infinite wisdom) is quoted in the book as saying you can blame your parents up to one point but if you can afford to change things then that sole responsibility lies on you not your parents anymore. The protagonist realizes that she’s deeply flawed but doesn’t know a way out. How many of us struggle with this? I’m pretty sure most twenty somethings do because I sure as hell could relate.

While this book had elements I could relate to, what made this book difficult to enjoy was the lack of humanity in it — not knowing anyone’s name made them seem almost unreal. At time’s I wondered what other people thought of the narrator. Were they even there or just figments of her imagination? 

The book is purely one-dimensional character development. The character comes to a semi-conclusion after a year and you’re left wondering if it’s too late. The build up is confusing but once you get there, you just want to shake some sense into her and ask what’s wrong with you?

If I took anything away from this book, it’s that our lives and thoughts are shaped by all of our experiences (even the lack of experiences). We’re definitely not immune to how our parents raised us even if we like to believe so.

If you’re looking for a frustrating, introspective read, look no further; judge for yourself here. Don’t forget to add your email under the follow button to get notifications of the next post. 

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