The September book read for one of my book groups was An Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein. I had read her book A Friend of the Family earlier this summer and had liked it.
College professor Andy Waite lost his wife to a drunk driver, a young man who was convicted and sent to prison. Andy was left with his daughters and his career. Andy was researching the effects of alcohol on mice, in hopes of learning more about alcoholism. He was increasingly frustrated when his results were not matching his theories. Meanwhile, he was teaching a class called “There Is No God” which was about evolutionary theory. He had also reluctantly agreed to act as advisor for Melissa, a student who was doing an independent study on intelligent design. At this same time, the young man who had killed Andy’s wife came up eligible for parole, and Andy was determined that he not be released from prison. And Andy became involved with his longtime friend and neighbor, Sheila, a recovering alcoholic.
There are many themes going on in this book. Andy’s student, Melissa, began to insinuate herself more deeply into Andy’s live, and began babysitting his daughters, leading to her becoming even more involved with him. Melissa began introducing the family to her church and her spirituality, leading Andy to question his own beliefs. His introductory comment to his class on There Is No God is:
“Evolution is the explanation for everything.”
But in the end, the novel begs the question through several characters: Is there a God? Is there faith? Is there forgiveness?
This book raised lots of issues and we had a very spirited book group discussion over it!