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Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  41,274 ratings  ·  3,653 reviews
A divinity professor and young mother with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis explores the pain and joy of living without certainty.

Thirty-five-year-old Kate Bowler was a professor at the school of divinity at Duke, and had finally had a baby with her childhood sweetheart after years of trying, when she began to feel jabbing pains in her stomach. She lost thirty pounds, chugged a
Hardcover, 178 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Random House
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Kari Matadobra Hi Elia, I see that you wrote this question a bit ago, but I will respond as well. The book is not long, and sheds light on an interesting sect of Chr…moreHi Elia, I see that you wrote this question a bit ago, but I will respond as well. The book is not long, and sheds light on an interesting sect of Christianity in America. However, it is also an autobiography by the author about her journey with cancer and dying. It is worth a read in my opinion, cheers!(less)

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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  41,274 ratings  ·  3,653 reviews

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Bill Gates
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I spend my days asking “Why?” Why do people get stuck in poverty? Why do mosquitoes spread malaria? Being curious and trying to explain the world around us is part of what makes life interesting. It’s also good for the world—scientific discoveries happen because someone insisted on solving some mystery. And it’s human nature, as anyone who’s fielded an endless series of questions from an inquisitive 5-year-old can tell you.

But as Kate Bowler shows in her wonderful new memoir, Everything Happens
Julie Ehlers
Sorry to have to say this, but Everything Happens for a Reason is a mess. This short book is a memoir of Kate Bowler's Stage IV colon cancer and how her diagnosis flies in the face of the "prosperity gospel"—the notion espoused by some Christians that as long as you believe in God and think positively, good things will happen for you, and therefore if something bad happens it's kind of your own fault. Was Kate Bowler previously a devotee of the prosperity gospel, or was she raised in that tradit ...more
This was the 2018 title I was most looking forward to reading, and it didn’t disappoint. I devoured it in one day. It combines two of my niche interests: medical (especially cancer) memoirs, and the prosperity gospel, a dubious theology I grew up with in the Pentecostal church my parents still attend in America. Indeed, Bowler’s previous book is a history of the prosperity gospel in America. Though she grew up surrounded by the Canadian Mennonite tradition, as she made progress towards becoming ...more
I started this book in the waiting room at the dentist, which was a mistake, in part because I’m always about to cry at the dentist and also because the dentist does not deserve to witness my deep wonder.

So I did what any reasonable person should and finished this book at home in bed on a slow morning. And gosh. I’m glad my roommates weren’t home because I oscillated between an ugly cry and a full belly laugh in the course of like three pages.

Kate’s voice is incisive and thoughtful and honest
Samantha Mitchell
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
I feel like I get to be honest here. I don’t have to feel bad for this woman (although, I do), but I do feel like I can judge in a more non-biased view given my own Stage IV diagnosis. Every cancer memoir or article that is published is going to influence people’s view about our illness, mortality, etc. Here’s the thing - none of us can know what’s to come and religion won’t tell us the truth. To me, she explored (and over shared) her religion and didn’t talk much about anything else. This was m ...more
Canadian Reader
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved is a propulsive memoir about a young woman’s sudden, dramatic diagnosis of stage-four cancer after months, possibly years (the timeline is fuzzy), of inexplicable symptoms and innumerable, pointless appointments with medical specialists. Some might frame a personal narrative like Bowler’s in terms of the uncertainty of medical science, reflecting on the imperfection and limitations of humans as diagnosticians and care-givers. Hindsig ...more
Renee Godding
“God, I am walking to the edge of a cliff. Build me a bridge. I need to get to the other side.”

Oh man... I don't know how to rate this just yet.

Everything Happens for a Reason is Kate Bowlers memoirs of her experiences after being diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. As a divinity professor, she has a difficult time integrating this personal tragedy into the narrative of her life. How can a benevolent God exist, in the face of all the injustice and suffering in the world? This book describes,
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't deny that Bowler's story is compelling and full of honest rumination on death and dying. She grapples with the question of "unfair" suffering and the ways that people (particularly those of the prosperity gospel ilk) offer well-meaning but truly unhelpful (and often hurtful and untrue) platitudes.

I cannot pretend to understand the exact type of suffering that Bowler endured with a stage IV cancer diagnosis at 35. I want to preface my concerns with this book by saying that it's difficult
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prior to reading this book, it was recommended to me by one of my good friends. We were discussing how we love to believe all the cliches such as: "Everything happens for a reason." Needless to say, I was very excited to read this, and by doing so, this has become my favorite book I read so far. Before I start my review, I am going to start of with some of my favorites quotes from the book.

"I wanted to make God to make me good and make me faithful,with just a few shining accolades along the way.
Liz MM
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A portion of this book was striking in its special way of describing mundane aspects of life and how meaningful they are when you’ve got a terminal illness. However, its narrative style was absolutely jarring and so hard to follow. Also, I felt that a huge portion of the book was not relatable because of the author’s privileged background and narrow sample of demographics. I was hoping for a bit more reflection or insight on the topic of prosperity gospel, but I felt all it had to offer were sni ...more
Feb 28, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I was drawn to this book because I've noticed that there seems to be a widespread belief that we are completely in control of our destinies. Think of all the articles and books that tell us what to eat, how much exercise to get, what to invest our money in, etc, etc to live a long and healthy life. Conversely, if you do experience financial difficulties or serious health problems, you must have done something wrong or something to deserve it. I've recently experienced some health issues, and man ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is the lowest rating I’ve ever given a book on Goodreads, and one of the few books I’ve read in my life that I can say I truly despised. It’s remarkable to me that someone who had a terminal illness could be so disparaging, dismissive, and disrespectful of medical providers and nurses. I couldn’t even get in to the overall message of the book because I was so flabbergasted at the jabs, insults, generalizations, and cliches that she kept casually tossing around. It had none of the depth and ...more
Gretchen Rubin
I'm a big fan of Kate Bowler's terrific podcast Everything Happens, so I wanted to read this memoir too, and also interview her for the Happier podcast. It's the story of how she's dealing with the diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer. ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Two things surprised me about this memoir. 1) The author, who is a professor of divinity, did not talk about Jesus, faith, salvation, Scripture, or heaven and 2) the author stayed pretty surfacey and vague throughout the book. I suppose she was referring to her anger about her cancer diagnosis when she took up swearing for Lent, but, all in all, she mostly rehashed what she had researched about the Prosperity Gospel Movement for her first book. It is not clear how much she actuallly accepted of ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: will-read-again
Please read this. It will wreck you in a good way.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, faith
I really thought about my rating: even going so far to read a range of reviewers comments. I was sure I must be missing something. But 2 stars it is. Kate is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Predictably and understandably she seeks to answer the 'why' question: as well as possible solutions. She calls on her mennonite upbringing. I found it rambling, jumpy and hard to read. I expected more from a theology professor. I am not being glib having been through 17 years of mostly pain; the result ...more
Riva Sciuto
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: bios-memoirs, grief
At thirty-five years old, Kate Bowler returns home from the doctor one day with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. This disrupts her entire universe, forcing her reevaluate her longstanding belief that God has a plan for all of us and that everything happens for a reason. This is particularly challenging for a Divinity professor who grew up in a Mennonite community in which all things -- good and evil -- are attributed to "God's plan."

And that's why I like this memoir: because Kate Bowler discovers th
Cherie Lowe
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads
This book should be required reading for anyone who will die or knows someone who will die. Hint: that's all of us. Kate Bowler reminds us of the thin thread of mortality, struggling through the doubts and questions any person of faith considers when contemplating the meaning of life and the purpose (if any) of suffering.

While weighty in concept, this book holds in tandem a bright optimism grounded with a gritty reality. A horror story collides head on with a love story as Bowler offers her mem
Melania 🍒
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

Funny and well written (I’ve actually laughed out lot a few times and that rarely happens when I read a book) but the essential message was lost on me, since I don’t think I’ve ever actually believed that everything happens for a reason. At best, this book reinforces what I already know. Plus the religious elements were doing nothing for me.
But I’ve got a few good lessons on how to be around /talk with people that are battling cancer or had similar experiences and I have a deep respect for
Celeste Caso
May 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir, religion
This book just wasn’t for me. Filled with judgments and complaints. My recommendation is to skip to Appendix 1 and 2 for what to say and not say to people who are suffering, and skip the rest. This was much more a religious book than a cancer memoir. If you’re expecting the latter you’ll likely be disappointed.
reading is my hustle
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
...But most everyone I meet is dying to make me certain. they want me to know, without a doubt, that there is hidden logic to this seeming chaos. Even when I was still in the hospital, a neighbor came to the door and told my husband that everything happens for a reason.

"I'd love to hear it," he replied.

"Pardon?" she said, startled.

"The reason my wife is dying," he said...

platitudes, man.
just stop.

kate bowler was 35 years old with a husband & baby when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon can
Rating: Good

Genre: Nonfiction

Everything Happens for a Reason is a memoir of Kate Bowler when she finds out that she got Stage IV colon cancer and how she had to deal with the Christian belief in the "prosperity gospel" that as long as you remain positive and believe in God things will get better and positive things will start to happen. Regardless of what religion says, I think remaining positive is one of the most important defenses against any disease including cancer. So I don’t understand wh
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kate Bowler's own story of a terminal diagnosis and the road she's traveled amongst good intentions while fighting for her life and her faith. Beautiful, raw, inspiring, and convicting.

“What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"? Everything is not possible. The mighty kingdom of God is not yet here. What if 'rich' did not have to mean 'wealthy', and 'whole' did not have to mean 'healed'? What if being the people of "the go
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
At 35, Kate Bowler is married to her high school sweet heart, the mother of a one year old, teaching at a prestigious university, celebrating the publication of her first book and diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her scholarly background is in the Christian movement known as the Prosperity Gospel. She weaves her experience of rage, desperation, fear, hope and the gut wrenching need to make sense of this diagnosis with the language and theology of the Prosperity Gospel. She shows how the desi ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is all I can think about right now—the mix of scholarship and faith and personal trauma. I share so many friends in common with her and so it seems close. I respect so much her persisting and not “skipping to the end”. Her resistance to making meaning except that “trust often feels like love” and her ability to find and celebrate that love are truly amazing.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
How can I critique a book written by a woman with terminal cancer? This book is more about her studies of the prosperity gospel and less about her personal journey. It was a bit dark for me and I never found a connection with her.
Kari Matson
Jul 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
Sadly disappointed in this book. She talks about her disillusionment with the prosperity gospel and it’s tenets that life will be fair as long as you are faithful to God and how she no longer believes this to be. Clearly though she still seems to believe that it SHOULD be true. Her whole book feels like a self absorbed rant about how unfair life is and how she didn’t deserve to get cancer because she’s young and has a beautiful baby and a handsome husband. She’s critical of the prosperity gospel ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 60-books-in-2018
I received an ARC from the publisher for review. This book was a bit heart-wrenching, the story of Kate Bowler's cancer diagnosis and grappling with her own mortality. I have to rate it a little lower because the narrative style was jarring to me - Bowler skipped around so much that I kept having to reread parts of the story because all of a sudden we were in a different tense, or timeline. Some good lessons in here, and be warned, there's lots of God - maybe more than I was expecting. If you've ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read most of this book through tears. There were definitely some ugly-cry moments and also laugh-out-loud moments. I listened to Kate Bowler’s Fresh Air interview before I started this, and so I could hear her voice clearly as I was reading. A beautiful book on faith in the absence of certainty, and also about love and community and how not to be a d**k when someone you love is experiencing tragedy and grief. This is definitely a book I would keep on my shelf and read again. Kate Bowler is a b ...more
Jun 27, 2021 rated it liked it
Kate Bowler wrote this book in the midst of her battle with stage IV cancer. As such, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved relies heavily on processing her emotions throughout the process. This isn't an answer to suffering. It doesn't supply much of a 'message.' (Except maybe that the prosperity gospel does not provide an adequate solution to suffering.) Rather, it provides the reader with glimpse her searching through the pain.
I found a few helpful takeaways—for example,
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Kate Bowler, PhD is a New York Times bestselling author, podcast host, and a professor at Duke University. She studies the cultural stories we tell ourselves about success, suffering, and whether (or not) we’re capable of change. She is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel and The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities. After being unex ...more

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  The glint of fangs in the dark, the sound of tap-tap-tapping at your window, the howling of wind (or is it just wind?) in the trees...that's...
317 likes · 57 comments
“What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"? Everything is not possible. The mighty kingdom of God is not yet here. What if 'rich' did not have to mean 'wealthy', and 'whole' did not have to mean 'healed'? What if being the people of "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.” 43 likes
“I used to think that grief was about looking backward, old men saddled with regrets or young ones pondering should-haves. I see now that it is about eyes squinting through tears into an unbearable future. The world cannot be remade by the sheer force of love. A brutal world demands capitulation to what seems impossible--separation. Brokeness. An end without an ending.” 32 likes
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