Lauren Grodstein's New York Times bestselling novel A Friend of the Family was hailed as "such an incisive diagnosis of aspirational America that someone should hand out copies at Little League games and ballet recitals" (The Washington Post). Now, Grodstein has created another insightful and gripping morality tale about love, loss, and faith.
Biology professor Andy Waite is finally beginning to pick up the pieces years after a drunk driver killed his wife. Between finishing his research and taking care of his young daughters, he has reasons to get through the day, and most days he does without falling apart. That is, until a young female student enters his life and turns it upside down. Melissa Potter is a passionate evangelist hoping to write the definitive paper about Creationism. She makes Andy's Darwinian certainty - and his grief - a personal challenge. As she chips away at his fervent atheism, he begins to fully realize the emptiness that he's been living with for too long.
But when Andy's relationship with Melissa becomes romantic, the boundaries he's worked so hard to maintain - personally and professionally - blur. And soon it's unclear what kind of deliverance he needs.
The Explanation for Everything explores humankind's insatiable search for meaning, the risks and rewards of faith, and the salvation that love can offer us all.
The first time Andy met Louisa, she was covered in blood. He was a bit bloodied himself, having just suffered a minor bicycle accident where Nassau intersects with Mercer and nobody can see himself coming or going. It was a Sunday morning in 1994, and Andy was wearing the ridiculous clothing he'd let himself get talked into by the cute salesgirl at Kopp's, purple spandex shorts??"junk-huggers!" Rosenblum hooted??and a black and silver nylon shirt. Anyway, he'd been daydreaming, yes, but he was reflexively careful at that intersection. And then an Audi out of nowhere, some cursing, an unnecessary ambulance, and now here he was, cradling what was almost certainly a broken wrist and thinking about his dissertation and the way the Mercer County emergency room smelled like urine and paint. The orange plastic chair was hard under his butt; his bicycle-friendly spandex shorts offered no padding whatsoever.
Then, as CNN began to rotate through yet another...
An atheist herself, Grodstein needs to be lauded for taking on such a loaded topic. She has that most generous gift every writer needs: empathy. Yet sometimes in her eagerness to do right by everyone, the book is too earnest, too indecisive, not willing enough to take sides. But Grodstein aims to level the playing field, giving them equal airtime - which is a good thing – however, we want a good fight that we ultimately don’t get...Despite these drawbacks though, Explanation succeeds in showing how important faith is in holding together the lives of millions.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (1130 words).
Biology professor Andrew Waite (the protagonist in The Explanation for Everything) had a predecessor in John Scopes, a 24-year-old high school teacher who decided to teach the theory of evolution in his Dayton, Tennessee high school classroom defying a then newly implemented state law banning this practice. The year was 1925, a time when jazz and Hollywood movies were believed to be corrupting influences on America's youth and the last thing the evangelical superiors in Tennessee wanted was a challenge to the word of God.
Taken aback by the Tennessee decision, The American Civil Liberties Union looked for teachers to become "test cases" - to teach the theory of evolution defying the state law. John Scopes was one such teacher. When...
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