Everything Happens for a Reason
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 antacid, and visited doctors for three months before she was finally diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.As she navigates the aftermath of her diagnosis, Kate pulls the reader deeply into her life, which is populated with a colorful, often hilarious collection of friends, pastors, parents, and doctors, and shares her laser-sharp reflections on faith, friendship, love, and death. She wonders why suffering makes her feel like a loser and explores the burden of positivity. Trying to relish the time she still has with her son and husband, she realizes she must change her habit of skipping to the end and planning the next move. A historian of the "American prosperity gospel"--the creed of the mega-churches that promises believers a cure for tragedy, if they just want it badly enough--Bowler finds that, in the wake of her diagnosis, she craves these same "outrageous certainties." She wants to know why it's so hard to surrender control over that which you have no control. She contends with the terrifying fact that, even for her husband and child, she is not the lynchpin of existence, and that even without her, life will go on.On the page, Kate Bowler is warm, witty, and ruthless, and, like Paul Kalanithi, one of the talented, courageous few who can articulate the grief she feels as she contemplates her own mortality.

Everything Happens for a Reason Details

TitleEverything Happens for a Reason
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780399592065
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Religion, Biography, Biography Memoir

Everything Happens for a Reason Review

  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 tradition? Why, no. She was raised in the Mennonite tradition. She's a professor at Duke divinity school and did her dissertation on the prosperity gospel, so she knows a lot about it, but has no actual personal lived experience with it at all. Analyzing a particular area of Christian belief in relation to her cancer might work for a short essay, but it doesn't work for a book-length memoir. Memoirs are supposed to be personal. Bowler discusses the prosperity gospel for so many pages, and after a while it just seemed pointless. She doesn't believe in the prosperity gospel herself, so what does it really have to do with anything?The book otherwise just meanders. It touches on her Mennonite background and other religious traditions, talks quite a bit about how hot her husband (allegedly) is, goes over her past fertility issues and other health problems, mentions a high-profile article she wrote on her cancer diagnosis and the prosperity gospel and the various responses it received—aha! When I got to this part it all made sense: Bowler had written an article for the New York Times, it got a massive response, she got a book deal, and then had to stre-e-e-e-tch it out to book length. She's done this, but not successfully.As other reviewers have mentioned, this is really much more a book about God and Christianity than it is a book about Bowler's cancer diagnosis. Given that she is a divinity professor, maybe I should have expected that. But the book started out with a harrowing section about her unexpected diagnosis and then went off in a hundred other directions, leaving me wondering how her surgery went and what her prognosis and treatment plan were. She doesn't come back to it until several chapters later, and even then she doesn't provide a lot of direct details—eventually the reader can suss everything out, but it takes longer than it really should for a book this short.In the past year or two I've read several memoirs about people's trials and tribulations, and many of them have left me underwhelmed. When I post my middling-to-negative reviews on Goodreads, I usually get some insults from people who think not liking a memoir is tantamount to going to the author's house and criticizing her life choices to her face. I'm not going to sugarcoat it: I think this is a simpleminded attitude. An author and her book are not exactly the same. Writing a book requires making decisions about what to put in, what to leave out, what tone to take, how to organize everything, and on and on. All of that affects the reading experience, and if it isn't done well, I'm not going to appreciate the book. I think what happened to Kate Bowler is awful and I wish her the best, but I also wish I hadn't bothered to read this.When I think back to memoirs I've really liked, such as The Liars' Club and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, I'm reminded that it's just not enough to have an interesting life. A memoirist also has to be serious about writing a really good book. I don't see a lot of that happening in the current crop of memoirs, and in the future I'm going to be much more careful about which new ones I read. I'm sure Everything Happens for a Reason will help some people, but purely as a reading experience it didn't hit any kind of mark for me.
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  • Bill Gates
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, some “why” questions can’t be answered satisfactorily with facts. Bowler was 35 years old, married to her high-school sweetheart, and raising their young son when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. When she got sick, she didn’t want to know what was making her body’s cells mutate and multiply out of control. She had deeper questions: Why me? Is this a test of my character?The book is about her search for answers that align with her deeply held religious beliefs. A professor at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, she grew up in a family of Mennonites and wrote a history of the prosperity gospel, the idea popular among some Christians that God rewards the faithful with health and wealth. Before she got sick, Bowler didn’t subscribe to the prosperity gospel, but she didn’t exactly reject it either. “I had my own prosperity gospel, a flowering weed grown in with all the rest,” she writes. “I believed God would make a way.” Then came her diagnosis. “I don’t believe that anymore.”Given the topic, I wasn’t surprised to find that Bowler’s book is heartbreaking at times. But I didn’t expect it to be funny too. Sometimes it’s both in the same passage. In one scene, Bowler learns there’s a 3 percent chance that her cancer might be susceptible to an experimental treatment. A few weeks later, her doctor’s office calls with good news: She’s among the 3 percent. “I start to yell. I have the magic cancer! I have the magic cancer!” She turns to her husband: “ ‘I might have a chance,’ I manage to say between sobs…. He hugs me tightly, resting his chin on my head. And then he releases me to let me sing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and do a lot of punching the air, because it is in my nature to do so.”The central questions in this book really resonated with me. On one hand, it’s nihilistic to think that every outcome is simply random. I have to believe that the world is better when we act morally, and that people who do good things deserve a somewhat better fate on average than those who don’t.But if you take it to extremes, that cause-and-effect view can be hurtful. Bowler recounts some of the unintentionally painful things that well-meaning people told her, like: “This is a test and it will make you stronger.” I have also seen how this line of thinking affected members of my own extended family. All four of my grandparents were deeply devout members of a Christian sect who believed that if you got sick, it must be because you did something to deserve it. When one of my grandfathers became seriously ill, he struggled to figure out what he might have done wrong. He couldn’t think of anything, so he blamed his wife. He died thinking she had caused his illness by committing some unknown sin.Bowler answers the “why” question in a compelling way: by refusing to accept the premise. As the title suggests, she rejects the idea that we need a reason for everything that happens. But she also rejects the nihilist alternative. As she said in one TV interview: “If I could pick one thing, it would be that everyone simmers down on the explanations for other people’s suffering, and just steps in with love.” She even includes an appendix with six ways you can support a friend or loved one who’s sick. It’s worth dog-earing for future reference.Everything Happens belongs on the shelf alongside other terrific books about this difficult subject, like Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal . Bowler’s writing is direct and unsentimental. She's not saying her life is unfair or that she deserved better. She’s just telling you what happened.I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that Bowler has too much integrity as a writer to offer pat answers or magic solutions. When I was done with the book, I went online to see how she was doing. I was happy to find that she was still keeping a blog about faith, morality, and mortality. It’s inspiring to see this thoughtful woman face such weighty topics with honesty and humor.
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School she was fascinated by prosperity theology: the idea that you can claim God’s blessings, financial and otherwise, as a reward for righteous behavior and generous giving to the church.If she’d ever been tempted to set store by this notion, that certainty was permanently fractured when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in her mid-thirties. “In a spiritual world in which healing is a divine right, illness is a symptom of unconfessed sin,” that way of thinking went. Having incurable cancer forced her to acknowledge that nothing is actually that simple; that there is no direct correlation between the quality of your faith and the outcomes you experience. “Control is a drug and we are all hooked,” she realized, when really life, with all its beauty and awfulness, is down to luck. Bowler writes tenderly about suffering and surrender, and about living in the moment with her husband and son while being uncertain of the future she faces. I especially liked the appendix entitled “Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times” (followed by some alternative lines to try).Bowler’s writing reminds me of Anne Lamott’s and Nina Riggs’s, and I highly recommend her book to memoir fans.
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  • Canadian Reader
    January 1, 1970
    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 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, of course, is 20/20, but it is evident that the many specialists Bowler saw were guilty of the biases and egregious errors in thinking that a number of medical writers, most notably oncologist Jerome Groopman (in his How Doctors Think and Your Medical Mind ), have in recent years brought to public attention. Some of the clinicians Bowler encountered were also guilty of appalling insensitivity. A junior doctor was sent in the early morning hours to inform her about her survival odds: she had a 30 to 50 % chance of surviving two years, she was bluntly told. A physician’s assistant who checked her sutures after her surgery asked her how she was doing, then callously announced: “the sooner you get used to the idea of dying the better.” While Bowler tells a story that will be familiar to those who have personally lived with their own serious illness or the illness of someone close to them, as well as those who have read other memoirs about the subject, the author’s angle—a religious and academic one— is rather unusual. At the time she first experienced her inexplicable symptoms, Bowler was working on her dissertation on “the prosperity gospel”, the brand of Christianity famously exemplified by the likes of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Joel Osteen, and Kenneth Copeland—among innumerable other “televangelists”, “charismatics” and religious shysters out there. This “gospel” is premised on the idea that if one only believes enough, one is entitled to all of God’s bounty. This, importantly, is not limited to spiritual gifts; it also includes material wealth, such as money and cars, and worldly success in general. It’s basically, the evangelical “take” on the American Dream. The notion that the blessings will flow if one only works hard enough to believe is immensely attractive to those struggling with chronic or catastrophic illnesses, broken families, or troubled teenaged offspring. Often exhausted after having tried all the conventional fixes to life’s big problems, the desperate become as little children and surrender to magical thinking.In essence the “prosperity gospel” isn’t that far removed from another homegrown American religion: Christian Science, which is predicated on the idea that right thought leads to perfect health. Illness, therefore, is evidence of flaws in the believer. While proponents of the prosperity gospel may not eschew modern medicine with its advanced diagnostics and techno-surgical, chemical, and experimental fixes, they are like the followers of Mary Baker Eddy in that they regard sickness as an indication of failure. Perhaps the believer hasn’t acknowledged all his sins and is preventing God from bestowing His bounty.Bowler excels at communicating the visceral, chaotic feelings of a person faced with a sudden dire diagnosis: the fear, the panic, the pleading and bargaining, the anger at the injustice of it all (she is preparing for death while everyone else is on Instagram), the grief—the intense sorrow— at the prospect of being wrenched from her young son and her husband, Toban, whom she’s loved since their adolescence in Manitoba. She even writes of being aggrieved at slights she won’t be present to argue against, projecting a future without herself in it, imagining some well-meaning but deluded soul accosting her husband with the old pearl of wisdom that God must have wanted another angel. Bowler’s narrative reveals all this but also indicates that the author hasn’t been an entirely detached observer of and commentator on the prosperity gospel; she’s absorbed at least some of its tenets. She writes: “It is one thing to abandon vices and false starts and broken relationships.I have tried to scrounge around in my life for things to improve, things to repent of, things to give God to say, There. I gave it all. But it is something else entirely to surrender my family . . .”At the time of her sudden (late) diagnosis and surgery, Bowler was a lecturer at Duke University’s Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. She not only had an abundance of friends to rally around her, but she also had a bevy of pastors, pastors-in-training, and general do-gooders praying for her. However, all the prayers in the world could do little to assuage the threat of being cut down in her prime. Bowler’s memoir is an interesting and quick read, though the author’s telling is (understandably) occasionally scrambled and frustrating. The disorganized execution creates a sense of emotional immediacy, but sometimes causes confusion. Events are not presented in clear, chronological order and the language can sometimes be fuzzy. For example, we are told that some years before the cancer diagnosis, when Bowler was hospitalized, having “agreed to some kind of surgery”, she and her husband were stunned to learn—seemingly mere hours before the procedure (again, the chronology is unclear)—that she is pregnant (after years of struggling with infertility). One assumes the surgery was intended to address the mysterious loss of motor function in Bowler’s arms. Whatever the case, the operation was off, and the couple returned home to dither and fuss for a bit. “But it had begun,” Bowler writes. What “it” was is not clear. The pregnancy? The ordeal? (By this point, she had already been having symptoms for some time.) She continues: “I felt something strange and ran to the bathroom. I started to scream for Toban.” What was this strange “something”? She doesn’t say. In the shower: “I could not look down. I was nothing but blood and water.” Is this meant literally, or is it a presentiment? Again, it is not clear.A significant part of Bowler’s memoir is dedicated to describing the mail, both snail and electronic, she received after an essay of hers was published in the New York Times. It seems all correspondence— whether from Christians, atheists, Buddhists, or fellow cancer patients—was intended to provide Bowler with the writers’ understanding of the reason why she had been stricken. Some letters were confessional outpourings. At the end of her book, Bowler provides appendices about what to say and not to say to someone dealing with catastrophic illness—something that many readers may find useful.At the time of writing, Bowler was still engaged in clinical trials for which she had to fly to Atlanta on a weekly basis. A scan conducted every two months indicated whether she was eligible to continue for two months more. After half a dozen or so rounds, there were signs that Bowler’s body was having a hard time coping with the toxic chemical loads. Having learned that she was among the three percent with the “magic” cancer that could be explained by a complicated gene repair disorder that might respond to experimental therapies, there was, of course, no guarantee that the treatment would actually be magical or the response long lasting.Many of us go through life events that utterly transform us, about which we can say later there is distinct “before” and “after”. For some, these events occur sooner than later. The world—or more precisely, the way we see it—seems completely changed. The carpet has been pulled out from under us, or perhaps the obscuring veil of illusion has dropped. Everything Happens For A Reason represents its author’s effort to make sense of the ultimate seismic shift in her life. One of the things she learns as she is “stuck in the eternal present of cancer”, trying to walk the “fine line between total passivity and supercharged heroic effort”, is that “nothing human or divine will map out this life, this life that has been more painful than I had imagined. More beautiful than I had imagined.”Thank you to Net Galley and Allison Schuster at Penguin Random House for providing me with a digital copy of this memoir.
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  • Davita
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 and also breaks your heart open (I know that’s not an adjective, but I’m so impressed I’ve given up on parallelism). Also, a good chunk of this book is dedicated to her community of Canadian Mennonites, who are consistently the best people I’ve ever met, so between that and a shout-out to Mindy Lahiri, we are clearly kindred. This isn’t about me, though, so please just read the damn thing.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    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. 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. Anything would do do if hardship were only detours on my long way life's journey. I believed God would make a way. I don't believe that anymore. ""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 people of the "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.""When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason."Kate Bowler believed in a lot of cliches and religious sayings,until she was diagnosed with cancer. Now she tells her story of the prosperity gospel and how detrimental it is to people who believe in teaching that does not reflect the true nature of God. I can relate to this book so much, not only the quotes that she used but I grew up with this religious nonsense!I too was taught that you had to have just a little faith to be healed, command money to come down from heaven in order to receive a blessing. That the reason why you were not healed is because you lacked faith. Either that or you need to tithe your money in order to receive a breakthrough from God..WHAT?? Now that I think about it, that is a load of Bullshi....SHUT YOUR MOUTH! I admire Bowler for sharing her story, it was eye-opening, quirky and provocative.Highly recommend to anyone, it exceeded my expectations!
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  • Suzy
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 many people have commented that they either can't believe that I got that or asked me what I did to get it or think all I need to do to get better is a positive attitude. My thought . . . if we're human and living on earth, shit is going to happen! While there is some connection with my beliefs and Bowler's experience and premise for this book, I had never heard of the Christian creed of "prosperity gospel". Indeed her previous book Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel was based on her belief in and her study of this phenomenon. Basically it purports that if you're good enough and you believe enough God will bestow wonderful things upon you and, conversely, if you're not doing the right thing, God will punish you! Well, she comes to the conclusion that shit happens, too, after her stage IV colon cancer diagnosis and experience with treatment (although I imagine she doesn't describe it exactly that way). While I didn't have the patience to read more than half this book about her experience and her revelations, I do feel that I'm probably not the target audience and also see that it had resonance for many GR readers. With all that said, the two appendices should be required reading for all people who have friends and family going through things. 1) Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times - you will likely cringe when you recognize things you've said (I did) and you will know how unhelpful these things are if they've been said to you when you are going through terrible times. 2) Give This A Go, See How It Works - Alternative things to say to and do for people going through terrible times. Believe me, follow Bowler's advice! These are all the things people who are suffering need to hear and receive!
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  • Samantha Price
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 more of a religious book then a cancer memoir. In the end, was she still a televangelist and believed in the prosperity gospel? I don’t know. Additionally, it was not in chronological order at all and overall very confusing.
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  • Ginny Tincher
    January 1, 1970
    Please read this. It will wreck you in a good way.
  • Riva Sciuto
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 that real life experience is simply incongruous with the longstanding religious beliefs with which she'd grown up. In this thoughtfully developed and honest memoir, she challenges the maddeningly cliche adage that "everything happens for a reason" -- which is repeated so frequently (and so thoughtlessly) to those who are suffering, ostensibly as an attempt to provide comfort. But so often it fails. Bowler writes, "Christians want me to reassure them that my cancer is all part of a plan. A few letters even suggest that God's plan was that I get cancer so I could help people by writing the New York Times article. There is a circular logic to these attempts to explain the course of any life. If you inspire people while dying, the plan for your life was that you would become an example to others. If you don't, and you die kicking and screaming, the plan was that you discover some important, divine lessons. Either way, learn to accept God's plan. It is in moments like this when I feel everyone's eyes on me, watching my progress and my attitude for signs of the Gospel, that I am gripped with fear. What if everything is random? A woman who has left the faith for science writes, 'I find it comforting to believe the universe is random, because then the God I believe in is no longer cruel.' This is a painful conclusion for so many who comb through their tragedies and wonder if God was ever even there." It’s clear throughout this memoir that Bowler is struggling to come to terms with her new reality and how it fits into the “prosperity gospel.” And it is even more clear that there’s no single answer. She lives in the ambiguity. While the chapters are somewhat disjointed and there’s no clear structure to Bowler’s writing, I don’t think it detracts too much from her central message. Perhaps what I appreciate most about Bowler's memoir is its honesty. "Life comes undone," she writes. "There are so many times in life when we think we have it locked down. Plans are made. Plans come apart. And nothing human or divine will map out this life, this life that has been more painful than I could have imagined. More beautiful than I could have imagined. Right, that's the secret. Don't skip to the end." She writes later, "Be prepared to stare down the ugliness and the sadness. Life is absurdly hard, and pretending it isn't is exhausting." And that's what I love most: her recognition that acknowledging life's hardships actually enriches the depth and fullness of our lives. It makes us appreciate the beauty and the joy and the love we do have. To attribute everything to "God's plan" -- and to dismiss even the ugliest and cruelest part's of life to the fact that "everything happens for a reason" -- ignores the reality and complexity of a human life. And so often it's within that complexity that real growth happens. Despite the devastating circumstances that led her to discover this, I am grateful to Kate Bowler for pointing that out. (And here's a link to her NPR interview!: https://www.npr.org/2018/02/12/585066...)
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.” Kate Bowler"A Final Public Service Announcement to Suffering People: Just remember that if cancer or divorce or tragedies of all kinds don't kill you, people's good intentions will. Take the phrase "but they mean well..." as your cue to run screaming from the room. Or demand presents. You deserve a break." Kate Bowler
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  • Cherie Lowe
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 memoir to the reader as a contemplative guide. With her unique perspective on the prosperity gospel (the focus of her academic research), Kate weaves her own story in and out of the lives of others sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of how a wide variety of Christians react to a cancer diagnosis and human tragedy.Don't glance over the appendices. Bowler doles out wisdom for what to say and do (and what not to say and do) when someone in your life faces similar circumstances. This book doesn't glance away from the harsh realities of cancer and dying and yet still beams with beauty, wit, and life. It's an artful expression of a personal narrative that reads like a kind conversation with your smartest, love-filled friend.
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  • Victoria
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 beautiful person.
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  • Victoria
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 read Bowler before, you should know to expect this.
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  • Dustin
    January 1, 1970
    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 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. Highly recommend.
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  • Heather Fineisen
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Lisa Lewton
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • Liz Martin
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 snippy and oftentimes judgy comments not limited to prosperity gospel or limited to ideas in general. Sanctimonious is a perfect word to describe the tone of book and the author’s way of thinking. Although I have a lot of sympathy for any kind of suffering, I also do not believe in the prosperity gospel, I am a mother to young children, and I am also very attached to my husband, the author left me unable to relate to her. I feel sympathy, yes, deeply. But in all other aspects, it was not an enjoyable read.
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  • Karol
    January 1, 1970
    Have you ever wondered why bad things happen? Are you at a loss about what to say to friends going through a hard time? For me this book comes as close to explaining the unexplainable as anything I’ve read. It’s real, it’s incredibly moving, and I couldn’t stop reading it.
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    ...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 ...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 was married with a new baby & a professor at duke divinity school. when she got her diagnosis she had a lot of questions for god. in her book she chronicles her life post-diagnosis & determines that this was not "god's plan." the thought of god assigning disease or hardship to teach a lesson seems horrible to her. she focuses on her family & friendships. she is rich in both. she also digs deep into the idea that a person can somehow make themselves better by having the right attitude. nope. positive thinking, affirmations, or flaxseed won't shrink a tumor. at the end of her book, kate adds an appendix i & ii where she instructs her readers about things to ABSOLUTELY NEVER SAY TO PEOPLE EXPERIENCING TERRIBLE TIMES & then gives suggestions as to what to say or do. recommended. image:
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    3.5/5This is a memoir telling of the author’s experience with stage four colorectal cancer and her faith. It was rather disjointed and I felt like the book jumped around in a disorganized way.
  • steph
    January 1, 1970
    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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  • Fr. Ted
    January 1, 1970
    Having survived lung cancer, a lobectomy, chemotherapy and an experimental chemo study, this book sounded interesting to me. I heard the author interviewed and thought I would read it. I would say her life and personality are quite different from mine - the author is a woman and extroverted so she sees everything from that point of view. The best part of the book was her own description of dealing with people endlessly aiming to be helpful. I could add other categories to her three favorites. I Having survived lung cancer, a lobectomy, chemotherapy and an experimental chemo study, this book sounded interesting to me. I heard the author interviewed and thought I would read it. I would say her life and personality are quite different from mine - the author is a woman and extroverted so she sees everything from that point of view. The best part of the book was her own description of dealing with people endlessly aiming to be helpful. I could add other categories to her three favorites. I think it comes down to most people want to be in control of their lives and when things seem out of control they resort to all kinds of methods which they have complete confidence in - or at least it allows them to continue their illusion of being in control of their life. It is amazing that cancer still exists at all considering the endless surefire ways to overcome it.
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  • Jodi
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 worth listening to: While I didn't always love this book (wish that some things were more chronological in order of events and I still don't completely understand Kate's faith and her relationship with prosperity gospel) this novel led me to listen to her podcast yesterday. I cried, I felt myself saying "yes, I agree with that" and downloading the next 5 episodes. 4. This novel reaffirmed my belief that things don't happen for a reason. There is no reason. There are hardships, uncertainty, making the best decision in each moment, and supporting each other on this crazy journey of life.
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 their teachings, nor what her beliefs about God, Christianity, Scripture, death, suffering, etc. were. I never do this, but 140 pages into a 175 page book, I gave up.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this for throwing out all the tired cliches that we tell people when they are going through hard things. Life is hard. The best way to make it through is one day at a time while trying to stay present. One of my favorite quotes: "Nothing human or divine can map out this life." Five stars to the Appendix that points out exactly what you should and should not say to someone going through a huge trial.
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  • Celeste Caso
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Ashley Rae
    January 1, 1970
    Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler is a startling memoir about courage, hope, and one woman's reaction to receiving the news that she has stage IV colon cancer.First off, this book was emotionally hard to read! Kate is in her 30s and has a husband and child. I'm also in my 30s and am happily married with two kids. It's hard to imagine being told your life could be over because of a cancer diagnosis. Honestly, I can't even imagine it--it's the thing of nightmares. I can't fathom not b Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler is a startling memoir about courage, hope, and one woman's reaction to receiving the news that she has stage IV colon cancer.First off, this book was emotionally hard to read! Kate is in her 30s and has a husband and child. I'm also in my 30s and am happily married with two kids. It's hard to imagine being told your life could be over because of a cancer diagnosis. Honestly, I can't even imagine it--it's the thing of nightmares. I can't fathom not being there to watch my kids grow up--I don't want to miss all of their firsts and big moments. Guess what? Neither does Kate. This memoir was well-written and hard to put down. Kate leads an interesting life. She grew up in the Prosperity gospel and teaches as a divinity professor. Yet when her body is wracked with cancer and well-wishers make comments like "everything happens for a reason" and "God has a plan," she struggles. For what reason does she has cancer, and what exactly is God's plan? She has a hard time coming to terms with what her faith says about death and dying versus her new reality.I appreciated the book's raw sincerity. Kate is honest, transparent, and even a bit snarky and sarcastic at times. She's very real, and reading this almost felt as though you were having a chat with her over a cup of coffee. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was poignant, insightful, and also inspirational. Kate is a fighter, and she's not willing to back down from the fight until all options have been explored. If I were to face similar news, I can only hope I would be just as commanding in my decision to battle onward. Should you read this book? If you appreciate memoirs, this was a great book to read. If reading about cancer makes you anxious, it's best to steer clear. Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.This review will be posted on my blog on April 6, 2018: https://thriftybibliophile.com
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  • Kimberly Zimmerman
    January 1, 1970
    I just finished reading Kate Bowler's Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, a memoir of her life before and with incurable Stage IV colon cancer. If you're like me and tend to shy away from books about terminal illness, you might think it will be a dark, depressing, hopeless tale that will leave you in tears and in a blue mood for a week.This book isn't like that. Kate is smart, funny, and endearingly honest with how she faces this illness day by day. She has a young son an I just finished reading Kate Bowler's Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, a memoir of her life before and with incurable Stage IV colon cancer. If you're like me and tend to shy away from books about terminal illness, you might think it will be a dark, depressing, hopeless tale that will leave you in tears and in a blue mood for a week.This book isn't like that. Kate is smart, funny, and endearingly honest with how she faces this illness day by day. She has a young son and a husband whom she loves and doesn't want to leave. There is no way to ignore her sense of grief as she lives with the fact she is dying, but she is no Debbie Downer. Her narrative goes along with her emotions and thoughts in a way that is tender and raw and completely relatable. She feels sadness, anger, and despair, but also joy, gratitude and hope.Throughout, she expresses her thoughts on Christianity, particularly the prosperity message and how it does not serve people who face terminal illness or catastrophic events of any kind. By relating not only her experience, but those of many others who have gone through the loss of loved ones or who are ill themselves, she shows how this message does a lot more harm than good. Although she remains a believer, how she thinks about God and Divine interaction does go through an evolution as she attempts to make sense of her circumstances.What stands out to me, aside from the fact that the book is interlaced with references to the Christian prosperity gospel, which I am very familiar with, is how well she brings the reader so close to herself and her story. You will feel like a trusted friend who is allowed to hear her unedited version of what it's really like to be her as she makes this journey. Kate Bowler has given the world a gift with this book. I walked away thankful for even the tough things in my life and with a determination to not waste a moment of it. I highly recommend that you read this book for yourself.
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