Reading guide for The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Explanation for Everything

by Lauren Grodstein

The Explanation for Everything
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 372 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2014, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In The Explanation for Everything, Andy Waite is a confirmed atheist who doesn't believe in the supernatural, yet he's convinced he's being trailed by his wife's ghost. To what extent are these contradictory beliefs shaped by grief? To what extent do we all live with contradictions about our faith?
  2. Do you think Andy is a good professor? Why or why not?
  3. Andy keeps asking himself, and anyone else who will listen, whether God is a figure of mercy or justice—he doesn't believe God can be both. Are mercy and justice opposing qualities? How do they work to oppose each other in our culture?
  4. Why do you think Melissa Potter was so invested in changing Andy's mind about religion? Were her intentions fueled by faith, romantic interest, or a genuine interest in his well-being?
  5. Books and letters play an important role in this novel. Why do you think Andy took such solace in the opposing works of Hank Rosenblum and Pastor Cling? Are those works really so oppositional?
  6. Throughout the novel, Andy finds purpose in being angry, but he also seems tired of being angry. In what ways does he go about finding peace? What other avenues toward peace do Sheila, Rosenblum, Melissa, and his daughters offer him?
  7. At different points in the book, Lionel Shell finds himself equally zealous about creationism and atheism. Why might a person believe so passionately in both sides of the argument? How are both ideologies a kind of faith?
  8. Anita Lim is destroyed, in part, by turning from science to faith. Do you think her acceptance of a loving God was responsible for her demise? If not, then what was responsible?
  9. Andy's daughter Belle longs to be baptized. What do you think this religious ritual means to her? What does it mean to Andy to witness her baptism?
  10. The deeper Andy investigates God, the less charitable his treatment of his neighbor, Sheila. In the end, is it the atheist, Rosenblum, who reminds Andy of his responsibility to his fellow man? Why do you think Andy treated Sheila so shabbily?
  11. How does Andy's trip to Florida affect his feelings about his work?
  12. Throughout the novel, Andy finds solace in his daughters, in how much he loves them and how much they remind him of Lou. How does parenthood provide Andy reasons to pursue his research, his letters to McGee, and his own isolation?
  13. Why do you think Rosenblum wrote to Andy toward the end of his life?
  14. What are the different ways that Darwin and Darwinian theory get used throughout the novel?
  15. The Explanation for Everything is a book about faith and evolutionary theory that doesn't take sides. In the real world, is it possible not to take sides on this debate? What are the consequences of accepting both possibilities?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Algonquin Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Scopes Trial

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta

Raw, emotionally intelligent and unflinchingly honest--a triumph.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.