...one of the year’s most winningly original debuts ... Nearly every page is marked by some kind of breezy scientific anecdote or aside — pithy, casually brilliant ruminations on everything from meiosis and mitochondria to what makes rockets fly. That it’s all so accessible and organic to the story is one of the book’s most consistent pleasures. So is the texture and tone of Wang’s language, a voice so fresh and intimate and mordantly funny that she feels less like fiction than a friend you’ve known forever — even if she hasn’t met you yet.
Chemistry is a novel about an intelligent woman trying to find her place in the world. It has only the smallest pinches of action but generous measures of humor and emotion. The moody but endearing narrative voice is reminiscent of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and Catherine Lacey’s Nobody Is Ever Missing. Fans of those novels will find a lot to enjoy ... In Chemistry, moments of tenderness are repeatedly juxtaposed with moments of misery. The mother took the girl out of school early to go to an amusement park. But then the mother left the family for a week. Wang never allows the reader to dismiss her as just a 'quiet' Asian mother. The girl tells us there is a phrase for family love in Chinese that in translation means 'I hurt for you.' This love, rather than romantic love, feels like the true subject of the book. Chemistry will appeal to anyone asking themselves, How do I create the sort of family I want without rejecting the family I have?
Weike Wang’s Chemistry is the most assured novel about indecisiveness you’ll ever read ... Chemistry is narrated in a continual present tense, which, in conjunction with Wang’s marvelous sense of timing and short, spare sections, can make the novel feel like a stand-up routine. Personal crises are interrupted, to great effect, with deadpan observations about crystal structures and the beaching patterns of whales. The spacing arrives like beats for applause ... Despite its humor, Chemistry is an emotionally devastating novel about being young today and working to the point of incapacity without knowing what you should really be doing and when you can stop.
Wang’s novel depicts a smart woman confronting an unplanned roadblock in her carefully engineered path, then feeling her way toward a terrifying unknown. The tight first-person can feel somewhat claustrophobic and familiar ? a cerebral depressive slowly unraveling in front of herself ? and much like the protagonist’s Ph.D. project, Chemistry doesn’t astound with its originality of concept or virtuosic language. But the work has its quiet, unassuming power, as the narrator’s clinical approach and outsider eye infuses the story of her mental breakdown with both wry humor and pathos. Weike Wang explores a young chemist’s reckoning with her own limits and possibilities in this capably crafted, thoughtful novel.
As with Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, the ingenuity behind Chemistry stems from sparse, lucid prose that juxtaposes curious scientific facts alongside quirky musings. Wang, the winner of the Whiting and the PEN/Hemingway awards, is a visionary who, by boiling down the relationship at the heart of the novel to its most basic elements, has crafted a narrative that manages to be both restrained and explosive.
Though essentially unhinged, the narrator is thoughtful and funny, her scramble understandable. It is her voice—distinctive and appealing—that makes this novel at once moving and amusing, never predictable. Wry, unique, touching tale of the limits of parental and partnership pressure.
A clipped, funny, painfully honest narrative voice lights up Wang’s debut novel ... Wang offers a unique blend of scientific observations, Chinese proverbs, and American movie references. In spare prose, characters remain unnamed, except for boyfriend Eric and the baby, nicknamed 'Destroyer.' Descriptions of the baby’s effect on adults and adults’ effect on a dog demonstrate Wang’s gift for perspective—the dog’s, the chemist’s, the immigrant parents, and, most intimately, their bright, quirky, conflicted daughter.