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.
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).
A well-crafted story of wayward souls searching for forgiveness, healing and personal truth.
The cultural clash engineered by the author opens as fresh and diverting, but gets bogged down in improbable plot turns involving Andy's neighbor and Melissa's megachurch. Heady discussions about God between Andy and Melissa feel as unrealistic as their romance, leaving a void where a lively debate should have been.
Grodstein handles everything with a subtle wit, managing to skewer both the ultraconservative and the ultraliberal without making either seem absolutely wrong. Both the tone and the plot of the grieving professor finding answers in science are reminiscent of Carolyn Parkhurst’s Dogs of Babel.
Ben Schrank, author of Love Is a Canoe
Lauren Grodstein proves herself a master storyteller. The Explanation for Everything tackles the tough topics: healing after loss, the relevance and possibility of the divine in our lives, the gilded shackles of academic life, and life in southern New Jersey - all while always being terrifically entertaining. I want everyone I love to read it.
Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
At once a novel of ideas and a deeply felt story of love, loss, hope, and the healing powers of forgiveness, The Explanation for Everything is a provocative, moving story, and a beautifully written one.
Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise
Confident, tender, and engaging, Grodstein's The Explanation for Everything is not so much a book about ideas but about the people who believe them: troubled academics, tired mothers, zealous teens. Harnessing the tension between our spiritual and rational instincts, Grodstein explores the dangers of certitude, the power of conviction, and the spiritual quality of love and loss, the way those feelings take us to the very brink of being, of questioning who we are and what we believe.
Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver
Why do any of us act the way we do? Is it our beliefs or our biology that shapes us? Lauren Grodstein considers this eternal question through the story of Andrew Waite, scientist, father, widower, struggling to raise two daughters, living with the ghost of his wife, facing a test of his faith in science. There are no easy answers here, just the honest complexity of human beings trying their best to be good people. The Explanation for Everything is moving, beautiful, and wonderfully funny.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. Doesn't live up to its title First of all, I recognized this as contemporary "literature" by the often and unnecessary use of vulgar language--it seems to be the norm now. That should have also been the clue that this novel would not turn out the way I would have... Read More
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 Scopes was brought to trial, the ACLU backed him in the "trial of the century" which is often referred to as the Monkey Trial (making a mockery of the...
American Dream Machine is the story of two talent agents and their three troubled boys, heirs to Hollywood royalty. It's a sweeping narrative about fathers and sons, the movie business, and the sundry sea changes that have shaped Hollywood and, by extension, American life
Viscerally gripping and intellectually engaging, Gods Without Men is, above all, a heartfelt exploration of the search for pattern and meaning in a chaotic universe.
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