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

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  19,623 ratings  ·  1,922 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
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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…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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3.75  · 
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 ·  19,623 ratings  ·  1,922 reviews


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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
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
...more
Rebecca
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
Canadian
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. Hindsight ...more
Davita
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
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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
Michael
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.
...more
Suzy
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
Liz
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
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,
...more
Melania 🍒
3,1/5

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
...more
Adrienne
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: faith, biography
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
Ginny
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: will-read-again
Please read this. It will wreck you in a good way.
Kate
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
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
...more
Riva Sciuto
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: bios-memoirs
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
...more
Julie
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
...more
Irene
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
Nicole
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
Victoria
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
Victoria
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
Lisa
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.
Jodi
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
There were a few take aways - life lessons if you will - that I will carry with me after reading this book.
1. Live in Ordinary Time: I am extremely guilty of always planning - the next project, the next vacation, the next meal etc. I need to stop more often and enjoy this moment, this day, this time.

2. Sometimes there is no "right thing" to say to someone: silence and the truth can have much more of an impact than trying to fill a void with saying the "right thing".

3. Kate Bowler's podcast is
...more
Elizabeth
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 talking.

kate bowler was 35 years old when she found out that she had stage IV colon cancer. she w
...more
Dustin
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the book I needed to read right now. Perhaps I'm not a fully objective reviewer. My mom passed away recently and I wanted to read something that discussed grief, but also the cliches that Christians bandy about. Bowler does a great job at telling her story and owning it, while not expecting others to have the same story. This definitely is a work that fits in nicely with Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, Paul Kalanathi's When Breath Becomes Air and Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie. High ...more
Heather Fineisen
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
You know you connect with an author when you finish reading their work and immediately look for more. I just ordered Blessed, Bowler' s book on prosperity religion. Everything Happens for a Reason references Blessed but focuses on the Author's cancer diagnosis and treatment. Many good tips on how to support someone with terminal illness. An interesting look at the big questions grappled with during debilitating times.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley.
Lisa Lewton
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kate Bowler is a delightful human being. Very real, honest, and insightful about the stupid things people say to those who suffer. The appendix is the best part with very practical suggestions about what not to and what to say.
Kimiya Roudgar
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Extremely honest.
Although it could've been better written.
Michaela Evanow
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
What a read this was.
This book woke me up and put me back in that fragile, stunned state after loss. When everything is magnified and technicolor, when home cooked meals are a downright luxury and letters and gifts buoy your spirits enough to get through the day. Something magical happens here. Love, as Bowler calls it.
Prepare to sit for a few solid hours and finish this in one gulp. Prepare from some waves of depression as she delves into the prosperity gospel and the confusion the church and
...more
steph
Eh.

It's not the best cancer/facing death memoir I've read in the last few years but its certainly not the worst either. Kate's thoughts were a bit all over the place but I still enjoyed her voice. She had a few good quotes/realizations about living and dying but I probably wouldn't read it again though.
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Kate Bowler is an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School. (currently on sabbatical)

Degrees:
Ph.D., Duke University
M.A.R., Yale Divinity School
B.A., Macalester College

Her book, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (Oxford University Press, 2013), received widespread media attention and academic praise as the first history of the mo
...more
“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.” 24 likes
“God, I am walking to the edge of a cliff. Build me a bridge. I need to get to the other side.” 18 likes
More quotes…