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

By: Kate Bowler

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Synopsis

Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity school. Although she herself came from a very modest Mennonite upbringing, she spent years studying the American prosperity gospel, a creed that believes blessings are a mark of God's favor and misfortune is a mark of his disfavor. Everything in Kate's life seemed to be pointing toward God's blessings: she'd earned her degree and gotten her dream job, she was happily married to her high school sweetheart, and they'd recently welcomed a son who was the love of their lives. Then, out of the blue, Kate was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer at the age of thirty-five.

Now faced with death, she began to ponder the irony of her diagnosis in light of her area of expertise. Kate spent a great deal of time around people who believed everything happens for a reason and that an illness of this type was a sign of sin or failure in her own life, yet she knows that realistically there is no magic spiritual formula that is going to shrink her tumors. In contemplating what it means to die without the types of certainties that those who've surrounded her believe in, she finds beauty, humor, and poignancy in the little things in life and discovers some hard-won truths about what it means to truly live.

Review

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved was our latest church book club pick. The author is a professor at Duke Divinity School and an expert in the evangelical creed known as the prosperity gospel, which she has studied extensively and written a book about. She was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer at the age of only thirty-five, which of course was a stunning blow. This book is primarily a memoir of her experiences with battling cancer and how that has affected her life. But at the same time, she relates it to the irony of being an expert in an ideology that espouses health, wealth, and happiness when she herself is dealing with a life-threatening illness.

I have to admit that I was a little reluctant to read this book. I have friends and family members who have been affected by both cancer and other terminal illnesses, so reading about someone who was going through that wasn't necessarily appealing. I honestly thought the book might be depressing and morose, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't. Ms. Bowler conveys an unanticipated optimism despite her situation being quite dire, and yet at the same time, she doesn't gloss over what she's going through on an emotional level. I found her story and her insights to be very inspiring and uplifting. And I was shocked to actually laugh out loud a few times at her witty observations. There's a pervasive sense of calm throughout the book that made me feel at peace with a topic that I'm not usually eager to think about. I couldn't help hoping that if one day I'm faced with the kind of challenge she is that I could do so with equal grace and dignity. This was a short little book that didn't take me long to read and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. I think people who are facing illnesses or other troubling circumstances might find hope, humor, and inspiration within its pages, and I definitely recommend it for its uplifting message. I'll certainly be keeping it around to give me a pick-me-up when the world has me down.

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Kate Bowler