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The Explanation for Everything

3.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  651 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
There is nothing inherently threatening about Melissa, a young evangelist hoping to write the definitive paper on intelligent design. But when she implores Andy Waite, a biology professor and a hardcore evolutionist, to direct her independent study, she becomes the catalyst for the collapsing house of cards surrounding him. As he works with Melissa, Andy finds that everyth ...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Algonquin Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,109)
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Nov 25, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing
UPDATE: 11/25/2015 .....
Lauren Grodstein is a terrific writer. You are missing out if you have not read her books.

A birdie just told me -Lauren has a new book coming out in 2017! So???
Why not consider reading "The Explanation for Everything" or "A Friend In the Family", first?

I can't wait for her new release!!!!! :)

Intellectually engaging!
Written with sensitivity!
Deeply felt!
Extraordinary study between believers of and non-believers!

Here is a sample dialogue between two characters i
Larry Hoffer
Sep 06, 2013 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it
I've often remarked that at times I just want to enjoy a book or movie simply for what it is without thinking about heavier issues, or dissecting how plausible the plot may actually be. Sometimes I just want to laugh, or cry, or be transported into some fantastical place or time, without considering deeper meaning. The converse, however, is also true—sometimes I enjoy books or movies that make me think, that stretch my mind beyond simply appreciating the talent that went into the work's creation ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Sheri rated it did not like it
I really need to stop reading books because I like their covers (yeah, yeah, I know the "don’t judge" adage). I picked this up and almost immediately wished I had not done so. Not only are the characters superficial and stereotypical and rather silly, but the situations in which they find themselves are stupid and contrived.

I found every discussion that Andy had with Melissa to be implausible and ridiculous. Instead of refuting her preaching (which is just an excuse for Grodstein to evangelize
Mar 10, 2014 Susan rated it liked it
I was drawn to the premise of the book. I was looking forward to the debate between Andy and Melissa between God and Darwin. The irony here is the book offers no real explanation of anything. Andy's religous conversion felt forced and artificial. His infatuaion or love of Melissa is equally inexplicable. His conversation with her about God was unintelligent and well just plain silly. I think that there are Lionels and Andys in the world ... Atheists who find God and the faithful who lose their f ...more
Ricki Treleaven
Nov 15, 2013 Ricki Treleaven rated it liked it
This week I read another book club selection: The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein.

I truly had high hopes for this book because it explores one of the most polarizing debates: evolution v. intelligent design. Professor Andy Waite, a biology professor and diehard evolutionist at a liberal arts college in New Jersey, is challenged to sponsor an independent study for Melissa Potter. Melissa's goal is to write the definitive paper on intelligent design {and save Andy's soul}. Melissa i
Sep 12, 2013 Meryl rated it liked it
I was very excited to see a new book from Lauren Grodstein. I was a huge fan of her last book, A Friend of the Family and her short story collection. All of her work has an amazing capacity to move me emotionally. And this book was certainly an emotional read. It was also a quick read, and I enjoyed exploring the topics of faith and science through a fictional narrative.

I found the protagonist, Andy, a bit frustrating and often didn't see where he was coming from. In A Friend of the Family, the
Jul 21, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
Andy Waite is a biology professor at a small college in rural New Jersey, where he landed after the sudden, tragic death of his wife. His research in evolutionary biology is designed to show a genetic basis for alcohol addiction, but the result aren’t quite what he was expecting. His daughters are growing up, with few memories of their mother, and with tenure seemingly assured, Andy’s life seems to have found a comfortable, but unexciting stasis.

But when he begins another semester teaching his c
Karen White
Sep 14, 2013 Karen White rated it really liked it
This book is hard to rate & review because while I think the writing was quite good, I spent a lot of the book frustrated with the characters, so the experience was a bit unpleasant. I also had that icky feeling in my stomach the whole time, anticipating that Andy was going to screw things up.

I just wanted to wring Andy's neck for most of the book. His inner thought on p 163 expressed my main difficulty with him: "All his life he'd been like that, forgoing the small good decision in favor of
Jun 08, 2014 Esil rated it really liked it
I won this book from Librarything, and I was glad I did. I was not familiar with Grodstein and don't think I would have chosen to buy this book based on the description of the story. I would have assumed that it was meant to be didactic. However, it was beautifully written and deceptively complex. Characters struggling with faith, science and how to make sense of life. There is no clean resolution, but a suggestion that extremism in any form is dangerous, and that meaning can come from small and ...more
Caroline Leavitt
Jul 10, 2013 Caroline Leavitt rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Grodstein's work--it's provocative, smart, gorgeously written, and I couldn't wait to read this one. She pits a young evangelist against an evolutionist to quickly engross you in a story about what faith really means, what faith can do--and what it can't and shouldn't do. The characters breathe on the page (and long after the last page is turned, I might add), the storyline is compelling and startlingly and the book has such impact, I still am thinking about it. Thought-provok ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Owen rated it it was amazing
I should say up front that I know Lauren personally, so I'm not exactly unbiased here, but I've seen a few reviews of The Explanation for Everything that are such head-scratchers, and I believe that this is a novel that has a great deal to offer. It's a marvelously accessible story about science and faith that refuses to ever let the reader get comfortable. I was also hugely impressed by the dexterity of the telling: there are multiple voices plugged into the narrative, and each one is perfectly ...more
Jun 27, 2013 Michelle rated it liked it
I received a free ARC of this title at BEA (Book Expo America) and was really excited to read as I LOVED A Friend of the Family. Unfortunately, I found this book just didn't measure up and was a bit of a disappointment. I was looking for the drama and suspense that I found in the amazing A Friend of the Family, a book I literally couldn't put down. The Explanation for Everything was a much slower, sleepier book, and I found myself not really caring about the characters. An average read.
A thoughtful domestic drama about the main character's journey to find peace some years after his young wife's tragic death. After a career spent preaching Darwinian absolutes as a biology professor, he starts to wonder if God offers the simple answers after all. This is not a heavy theological novel. There are amusing moments of his day to day life raising young daughters, an awkward relationship with his divorced neighbor, and the ill-advised presence of the female student who attempts to chan ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
This was definitely a book that I was surprised by how engaged I was by it. The topic, creationism vs. Darwinism, is honestly not one I had given much thought. The main character is a widower who is raising his two girls along after his wife dies in a horrible accident. He teaches a course called "There is No God" but then a student comes in, wanting to do her independent study on creatism which causes our main character to question everything he believes in. This book had likable characters and ...more
This author is a good storyteller, and for the most part the book is well written. Andy is an evolutionary biologist and professor, teaching a course titled "There is No God". While teaching this course Andy agrees to become the academic advisor for a young woman who is working on an individual study to attempt to prove "intelligent design". Andy overlooks his objections to this as a research project, as there is no scientific proof for this theory. Melissa, the student, asks Andy to read some o ...more
Matthew Ciarvella
May 31, 2014 Matthew Ciarvella rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
The story's wonderful premise falls apart during its own execution.

I very much enjoyed the set-up. I liked Andy Waite, the hardcore atheist biology professor who taught a class colloquially titled "There is No God." He reminded me of a few of my own more incisive professors during my philosophy studies. I liked the idea of That One Student who just wants to take the class to try and prove the professor wrong. I looked forward to the idea of the student who wanted to do an independent study about
Nicole Bonia
Sep 12, 2013 Nicole Bonia rated it liked it
The Explanation of Everything proves why Grodstein’s work is lauded by readers and critics alike. Her writing is lovely and well-considered. I loved the details that supported the intimate portrait of Andy’s relationships with his daughters, his neighbor, Sheila, and his place among the faculty and staff. Grodstein made it easy to see why Andy arrived at some of his conclusions, and how he could have wandered so far off track.

Still, there was something missing (a lack of urgency, too much apathy
Nov 28, 2015 David rated it liked it
A tough one. More a three point two five than a flat "liked it." And I did "like it," with caveats. Those caveats: As a pastor, I found the "faithy" parts of the book almost worked...but not quite. Faith transitions were abrupt...which they can be...but Boom! A committed atheist believes in God. And Boom! An ardent fundamentalist is suddenly reading Camus and moping around in a black turtleneck. It's just too sudden.

One particular transition--involving a Korean-American woman--struck me as inex
Jul 31, 2015 John rated it liked it
This is a very readable book about a subject that's very dear to my heart -- I'm actually researching and writing an essay (nothing grand) about Darwin at the moment -- so really I should have liked it far more than I did.

Evolutionary biologist Andy Waite, stuck teaching in a backwoods college and hoping he's on track for tenure, is still grieving for the wife he lost to a drunken driver a few years back. He thinks he's coping reasonably well in holding down his academic post while raising his t
Nov 05, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it
This was not an explanation for everything, the author explains nothing. For example, why are we supposed to care about the spineless selfish jerk who is the central character? Why if the debate between Evolution vs. Creation is key to the plot; would the actual debate not be authentically given but instead sketchily mentioned like cocktail party talk? Also, why would all Evolutionists be portrayed as elitist drunken snobs; and all Creationists as naive yet manipulative Christians unless the aut ...more
Jul 26, 2014 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Andy is a widower trying to raise his two daughters on his own and hopefully get tenure at the crappy New Jersey collage where he teaches – not what he envisioned for himself when he was younger, but then life has thrown him several curve balls since his wife was killed by a teenaged drunk driver. He spends his time at work trying to pin down the elusive gene behind alcoholism, and his time at home writing letters (never sent) to the boy who, now a young man after six in prison, killed his wife. ...more
Mike Cuthbert
Jul 25, 2014 Mike Cuthbert rated it it was amazing
The quest for assurance or clarity concerning the nature of God and the universe is an eternal quest and one that can literally madden one if we keep at it too long. Lauren Grodstein, in this book, has taken several intelligent and moving steps at achieving clarity and understanding by mounting an academic situation for her protagonist, Andy Waite, a professor of biology at a small college. Andy is waiting for a tenure decision and in the meantime is studying the nature of alcoholism with an exp ...more
Jul 13, 2014 Grace rated it really liked it
Andy Waite is a 40 year old college professor whose wife was killed by a drunk driver. Left with two young daughters, he takes a position at a liberal arts college in New Jersey where he teaches a course called There is no God and tries to prove that alcoholic mice will drink themselves to death if left unchecked. Although he has a neighbor who would be more than happy to comfort him, Andy takes up instead with one of his students, a girl who challenges him to work with her on an independent stu ...more
Before I started reading this book, I had low (or no) expectations for it. When it introduced the debate between Intelligent Design and Darwinian Evolution, I was very intrigued, for it seemed to give both sides of the debate an equal voice. That so rarely happens in any book, fiction or not, that I was actually excited. Discussion about genetics too!

This was my kind of book.

Except that I should have noticed it was not very long. A book of this length can't do justice to genetics or origins. I
Barbara Baer
Aug 25, 2014 Barbara Baer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot. I picked it up in an airport bookstore with practically no expectations one way or another and was pleasantly surprised.

Andy, the main character, is extremely well fleshed out. He is a good dad and generally good man. But he has some deep flaws that make him human. And he is conflicted too in a way that I found very real to life.

There is a religious debate running under the surface of this book, but the author makes a good job of not turning it into an anti-religion (or
Chuck Gorman
Sep 05, 2013 Chuck Gorman rated it it was amazing
Some books have a great story, (maybe) not written incredibly well. Some books have a "simple" story written incredibly well. This book has a great story written incredibly well. There are moments in this book-Roseblum's letter to Andy, the "Note From the Author" at the end-that defy logic. Lauren Grodstein can drive a grown man to tears and then have him blowing snot bubbles laughing in the next paragraph. I loved every second of it.
R. Honey
Feb 25, 2014 R. Honey rated it really liked it
This was an Early Reviewer book from another book site that took a long time to get here.
So I in turn took a long time to read it.
Then,recently I read that the author was coming here to give a talk.
I read it in preparation for this event.
I give this book four stars because I found myself compelled to read
it and not to put it off....always a sign I am not that fond of a book!
Also,I really liked the main character,flawed, widower Andy and his two normal
school age daughters.
At a low moment and I am
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Aug 29, 2014 Jennifer Lauren Collins rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
When I began this book, I wasn't drawn in, but I was interested enough in the premise that I was held by the story. As the book went on, though, this grew less and less true, and I grew more and more annoyed with what had become an overtly predictable--and sometimes unbelievable--story about characters that were, more and more, not much better than stereotypes. By the time I reached the novel's finish, I was glad to be done, and ready to avoid this author in the future.

It's also important to not
Jan 29, 2014 Sandie rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 28, 2014 Crystal rated it really liked it
I liked the way the author brought out the story of a man who was so intently focused on the scientific and closed to the spiritual that it shaped his life. I like the way the atheists were strong, self-righteous (as well as the Christians who were strong and self-righteous). I liked the way Andy grieved for his dead wife, loved his daughters, sought love and meaning in life but never quite found it. I liked the drama of his hero Rosenblum, the evolving story of his downfall and surprising endin ...more
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Lauren Grodstein is the author of the collection The Best of Animals and a novel, Reproduction is the Flaw of Love, which was both a Breakout Book selection from and a Borders Original Voices pick. Her work has been translated into German, Italian, and French. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University."
More about Lauren Grodstein...

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“Your world is the world of coincidence, of meaninglessness. You choose the world that would have us as specks of dust, as mice in a cage. Is that the kind of world you want to live in,” 0 likes
“returned to his drunken mice, dreaming their placid, inebriated dreams. He reached in and scratched one on the nose; like a bum, or one of his daughters, it seemed to snort before it rolled over. Poor mice. They were the only animals whose alcoholism he was able to forgive—he knew the genetics behind it, after all—and he often found himself envying them their single-minded devotion to drinking, and their peace.” 0 likes
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