Excerpt from The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Explanation for Everything

by Lauren Grodstein

The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein X
The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 372 pages
    May 2014, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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"So?" Rosenblum said, as Andy delivered a stack of graded papers?—?papers he'd graded painstakingly with his uninjured left hand. "You want me to find her for you?"

"I don't know," he said. "She's got a boyfriend."

"So that's it? You let her go?" Rosenblum was sitting amid the educated squalor of his office, files everywhere like the aftermath of a ticker tape parade, books on every surface, dead plants, a dead terrarium, an empty aquarium, an empty ashtray, and the detritus of his life as a celebrity: T-shirts, posters, and pins emblazoned with his face over the title of his most recent bestseller, Religion's Dangerous Lie.

Andy leaned back against Rosenblum's doorframe. He was already itching under his cast, and the thing was sup-posed to stay on for six more weeks. "I don't think I ever had her, Hank. I don't see how I can let her go."

Rosenblum raised his crazed eyebrows. "Well, for chrissakes, Andrew, sit down. Didn't your mother ever teach you it's rude to stand in people's doorways? Or don't people know that in Ohio?"

This was part of Rosenblum's cosmology?—?that Andy was a fatherless rube from the sticks (greater Cleveland) who needed a sophisticate like Rosenblum (who hailed from the most Jewish precincts of Brooklyn) to show him the ways of the world. Andy was one in a line of students to whom Rosenblum had taken a liking, cooked dinner for ("You ever try ahi tuna? No, idiot, it doesn't come from a can"), poured wine for, tried to train not only as a biologist but as a certain kind of bon vivant, one attuned to the pleasures of the world as much as the wonders of the microscope. Andy had proven himself a keen student?—?Rosenblum's major requirement, in a mentee, was that he be both bright and a touch sycophantic?—?and the fact that he was from Ohio, of all places, made Rosenblum that much more interested in Andy's transformation. "Ohio!" he would hoot, apropos of little. "Is there any state more depressingly nowhere than Ohio? Has anything great ever happened in Ohio? To anyone from Ohio? In the whole history of Ohio?"

"Paul Newman?" Andy would offer. "Neil Armstrong?"

"Hollywood!" Rosenblum would counter, self-righteous. "The moon!"

Rosenblum liked to take Andy out to eat on occasion at the finest restaurants in central New Jersey ("Which of course is like swimming on the finest beach in Siberia, but what can we do?") and took him to J. Press for a decent suit to wear to the Gene and Genome convention in Chicago ("We'll charge it to the department," Rosenblum said, rakishly, although Andy suspected he'd paid for it himself).

And of course, amid all this Pygmalion bustle, Rosenblum oversaw Andy's biology training. Andy was interested in gene theory, and Rosenblum, one of the premier American evolutionary biologists of his generation, guided Andy's research through generations of mice and endlessly revised papers. It was with Rosenblum that Andy published his first research, and it was under Rosenblum's careful supervision that Andy devised his dissertation thesis around the relationship between specific brain structures and specific de-generative conditions. And it was under Rosenblum that Andy became an avowed and devoted atheist, seeking out, like his mentor, the superstitious gaze of the Believer wherever it roamed and staring it down in an unlosable game of chicken.

"Listen, my young friend," Rosenblum said, flicking something invisible from his cuff before turning his attention back to Andy's pathetic figure slumping into the seat opposite him. "Don't be a schmuck. This beautiful girl gives you an opening, you can't just let her go."

"It really wasn't such a great opening. And anyway, when I left the ER she was gone."

"So? You can't get a nurse to give you her records? Find out her address?"

Excerpted from The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein. Copyright © 2013 by Lauren Grodstein. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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