Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Explanation Of Everything by Lauren Grodstein

Andy Waite has a fairly decent life.  A widower raising two young daughters, he is a biology professor on the tenure track at a college in New Jersey.  Maybe he doesn't have everything, but what he has is enough.  The college isn't first tier as he imagined when he was the protégé of one of the most famous evolutionists of his time, but it is good enough.  He hasn't gotten massive research grants, but the college lets him work on his selected research projects without interference.  Maybe he doesn't have a love life, but he isn't sure he wants one after losing his wife the way he did.

Andy's favorite class is one he teaches in the fall.  Nominally outside his field, he teaches the evolution course, familiarly known as the 'there is no God' class, where he guides students through evolutionary thought and writings.  This year, however, things are a bit different.  A female student, Melissa, has come to him to ask him to supervise her independent study.  She wants to research the intelligent design theory.  Andy has no use for this theory and his first thought is to say no, but Melissa is so disarming and in need of a mentor that he agrees to take it on.

Soon Melissa has worked her way into his family's life.  She volunteers to babysit, and babysitting is something a single parent finds hard to resist.  His girls love her, and he can't deprive them of this comfort, even though she talks about religion with them, and soon, they are asking to go to church.  Even Andy starts to wonder why Melissa seems so content, so able to handle the obstacles life throws at all of us.  Could he have been wrong all these years?

Lauren Grodstein has written a novel that lays out the arguments on one of the most divisive issues in modern life.  There are few who don't have an opinion on the subject of religion, and each side is firmly convinced the other just doesn't understand how life works.  Readers will be interested to watch Andy grapple with the issue and to follow his thought processes over months of exploration.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy books about issues and how individuals react to them.

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