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The Explanation for Everything: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616201126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616201128
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,155,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Andy Waite is a biology professor who has never gone in for religion, but he lives for glimpses of his wife’s ghost. He’s trying to balance grief and fatherhood and a complicated relationship with his neighbor while applying for a grant that would help him prove that the brains of alcoholic mice are wired differently. None of it is going very well, although he is a pretty decent father to his two young girls. Then his seminar on Darwinism, “There Is No God,” is infiltrated by a Campus Crusader for Christ, and a student asks him to sponsor her independent study on intelligent design. All of this leads him to question the faith he was so confident he did not have. Nothing is neatly answered, and even though some of Andy’s actions are desperately cringe-worthy, you root for his hard-won wisdom. 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 (2003). --Susan Maguire

Review

“[Grodstein has] fashioned in her smart, assured third novel, The Explanation for Everything, . . . a gripping tale of a biologist who finds himself approaching midlife and suddenly finding faith . . . Grodstein’s real gift is her emotional precision . . . Finding or losing God proves to be an equally destabilizing tectonic shift, and this novel is full of them . . . Their cumulative force will leave you happily unsteady, and moved.” The Washington Post

“Very smart and touching and unexpected.” —Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children

“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.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion

“Engrossing . . . You’ll likely close the book with a new perspective on faith, justice, mercy, and the difficulty of holding a moral high ground.” —Bust

“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.” —Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver

“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.” —Ben Schrank, author of Love is a Canoe

“A well-crafted story of wayward souls searching for forgiveness, healing and personal truth.” —Family Circle

“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.” —Booklist

“Her narrative sparkles with irony and wry observation . . . Grodstein’s portrait of Andy is spot-on, as is that of the evangelical student, Sheila, Rosenblum and the minor characters. A rumination on love and loss, faith in reason and faith in the divine.” —Kirkus Reviews


Praise for A Friend of the Family:

“Unfolds with suspense worthy of Hitchcock . . . [Grodstein] is a terrific storyteller.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Gripping . . . [Grodstein] has succeeded in shattering the image of surburban happiness.” —Chicago Tribune

"Horrifyingly plausible and deeply poignant, A Friend of the Family will leave you shaken and chastened--and grateful for the warning.” —The Washington Post Book World

"Involving at every level: character, plot, language. one of the more complicated portraits of a father’s love for his son we’ve ever read . . . highly recommended.” —McSweeney's

“Grodstein’s harsh, honest prose makes this haunting tale worthwhile.” —People

(Review quotes)

More About the Author

Lauren Grodstein is the author of the novel "The Explanation for Everything." Her previous novels include the New York Times bestselling "A Friend of the Family," along with "Reproduction is the Flaw of Love," and the short story collection "The Best of Animals." She teaches creative writing at the Camden campus of Rutgers University, where she helps administer the university MFA program, and lives in New Jersey, near Rutgers, with her husband and her young son. You can find out all about her - favorite books, pet projects, gardening disasters, child-raising joys - at http://lauren-grodstein.tumblr.com/.

Customer Reviews

I really wanted to like this book, I found the premise interesting and unusual.
Lauri Crumley Coates
If you are looking for pages of discussion over an Intelligent Designer vs. there is no God and Darwin's theories you will not find it here in this book.
RWH of Haddonfield area....
Stunning and well written, this book will provoke strong feelings from readers.
Bloggers Recommend

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 85 people found the following review helpful By sallyforth on September 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was sent this book for review and chose not to carry through as I don't relish giving bad reviews - but the five-starred reviews here have prompted me to action - this book starts out with promise, the premise is compelling, then it so suddenly falls completely apart it's stunning. The protagonist drops his convictions and rationale to fall into a relationship with an obstinate, awkward student whose flowery beliefs begin to degrade his own solid footing in reality, academia, fatherhood, you name it - and he goes along with nary an argument. It could only have made sense if she were blindlingly alluring (men HAVE been known to be idiots when a rush of testosterone intervenes)but when the main character has his character pulled out from under him by a siren for Jesus, why read on?
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gary Schroeder on October 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lauren Grodstein wants to explore the topic of religious faith and its clash with science and modernity. Lucky for her, she's an author and can plumb the depths of this debate by literary means. Normally, these kinds of debates take place between friends late at night after a few drinks. In "The Explanation for Everything," the reader gets to go along for the ride as an eavesdropper.

Our hero, Andy, is a biologist and rationalist through and through. He's a middle-aged widower and father of two who's hit that point in life where the Big Questions are really beginning to take center stage. Andy's been teaching a course in Darwinian evolution for years nicknamed by students the "There Is No God" class. He's pretty confrontational about the course's topic, having no patience for students who want to counter the basic tenets of evolution as a science. As a rationalist, the ground under Andy's feet feels rock solid--until he's forced to confront his beliefs in a new way by a student who wants to pursue an independent study in intelligent design. Ordinarily, it would be easy for Andy to laugh these sorts of thing off but he's not living in an ordinary period of his life; his romantic life is non-existent, he misses his dead wife, his grant research into the genetic origins of alcoholism are turning out to be a bust, threatening his bid for tenure and his daughters are becoming feisty teens. All of these factors combine to leave Andy in a momentary state of weakness. He's vulnerable.

It's in this moment of vulnerability that Andy begins reading some of the religious books that his independent study student Melissa Potter has supplied him with.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lauri Crumley Coates VINE VOICE on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book, I found the premise interesting and unusual. A college professor, an Evolutionary Biologist, falls in love with a student, an evangelical Christian, out to convert him. Now, this is a man who maintained his beliefs through the death of his wife, several years earlier, by a drunken driver. Yet the reader is expected to believe that he throws his life's work and views aside for an uninteresting and somewhat blah believer. Just not realistic, and nearly laughable in fact, as the character of the girl is blatantly boring and unremarkable. Now, many a man may have followed a certain portion of his anatomy after a woman so basically wrong for him, but it just doesn't compute given the way the girl is drawn. Disappointing and not at all realistic.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Love at First Book on September 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received this book from Devourer of Books in order to participate in her book club.

Oh how I wanted to like The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein more. Really. It seems like a good concept: Man has a fabulous life and wife. Man loses wife. Man believes in evolution. Maybe man will find G-d.

But no. . . Professor Andy Waite is an evolutionist, a believer in the Darwinian field. He's also a college professor and teaches a class about how there is no G-d. A few years ago, Andy lost his wife to a drunk driving accident (the other guy was drunk) and has to raise his two girls on his own. Then Melissa, a student, enters his life and complicates things. This stuff I liked.

Then Andy started to doubt his beliefs and wonder if there really was something bigger out there, a purpose besides science. This doubt just felt really unbelievable to me. Here's why: Andy is a professor and a self-proclaimed Darwinist. It's been his belief for years. He knows a lot about science and evolution, he met his wife with these strong feelings, he teaches a class on it at the college where he works.

He stuck to his beliefs through his wife's death, through the six years that followed his wife's death.

Then all of a sudden, some young student walks into the picture asking questions about how we are too complicated to be just randomly evolved, and oh, he starts to doubt. That just didn't seem to fit with Andy's past and his present. If there was a time to doubt, why not when his wife was killed? Why not years ago? Now? Six years later? I didn't buy it.

Even with that, I didn't hate the book. I'm rating it 3 stars, which is "good" but not anything special.

Have you read this book? What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca @ Love at First Book
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