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 by Lauren Grodstein X
The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein
  • 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?
Free Book Club Report

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

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya

    A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

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.