Title: The Explanation for Everything
Author: Lauren Grodstein
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Years ago, Andy Waite’s wife was killed by a drunk driver. Since then, Andy, a biology professor, has devoted his research to alcoholism while raising their two daughters alone. Every semester, Professor Waite teaches a class that reflects his hardcore evolutionist beliefs—and leaving no room, as Andy has no room in his own life—for intelligent design and God. But when Melissa, a Christian student, comes to Andy and asks him to oversee her independent study about how intelligent design is a theory that should be held equal to evolution, Waite agrees in a fit of pity for the girl. But what he doesn’t realize is that this young girl and her beliefs will shatter everything Andy holds dear and change his life forever.
Lauren Grodstein writes thought-provoking, ambitious novels, and though you don’t always like the characters she writes, you understand their motives and find them incredibly realistic. She focuses on serious issues that face society today, and in The Explanation for Everything, she takes on alcoholism and the faith vs. science debate, among others. Her novels are well-written, easy to read, and are fodder for discussion; whether love or hate, her novels will always bring about strong feelings, which means they all make great book club reads.
Andy is absolutely lost when The Explanation of Everything begins. He’s never recovered from his wife’s death, and the reader gets a sense that he’s hanging on the edge of a precipice, on the verge of a nervous breakdown throughout the novel, which partially explains the bad decisions he makes. He finds little comfort in life, which is why the views that Melissa presents are so attractive to him. His scientific mind scoffs at the idea of religion, but emotionally, he’d like to believe in something greater, that his wife is somewhere better and there is a reason behind her death. It’s so fascinating to watch his transformation, moving between science and faith, trying to see if the two can coexist within him.
Can a scientist also have faith in God? This is the difficult question that Grodstein poses in The Explanation for Everything. Regardless of what you believe or which side you’re on, you’ll find Grodstein’s portrayal of Andy interesting. What’s more, his research into alcoholism is also worth paying attention to. Is there a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism? This is what Andy’s trying to discover, his attempt through science to bring some sort of meaning to his wife’s death. It’s interesting to see how this research interplays with his explorations into faith, and his surety that science is the true answer.
Despite the fact that it’s clear over the course of The Explanation of Everything that things cannot end well for Andy, this is still an easy-to-read and enjoyable book. It’s one of those novels that you’ll find yourself immersed in as the pages go by, and it’s a book that’s well worth reading and discussing.
Other books by Lauren Grodstein: