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

by Kate Bowler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7003427,636 (3.89)19
"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"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Young, well-educated, spiritually-attuned mothers face colorectal cancer.
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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I don't read widely anymore in the "christian living" genre, so I wasn't sure how I would find this memoir. Overall, I thought it was fine - perhaps one of the better of the harrowing diagnosis memoirs available - but not, for me, lifechanging. I found the structure of the book to be the biggest obstacle for me in really sinking into the narrative - it felt jumpy and lacked smooth, seamless transitions. Bowler's voice felt true and relatable, and I appreciated most her appendix listing "Things Not to Say".
  NeedMoreShelves | Feb 20, 2022 |
Probably in my top ten books for the year - great read. She handles really tough stuff with a clarity and humour at all times. It talks to one person's narrative and feels very personal. I relate but understand not everyone does. I will read more by this author for sure. ( )
  Felicity-Smith | Jan 19, 2022 |
Kate breaks through the pomp and circumstance that religion tries to pass off as true faith, and reveals the human journey that all of us might take, but hope we won’t. Through poignant stories and raw emotion, she skillfully reveals the fallacies of those that say to simply ‘name and claim your healing’, and provides a better roadmap of trust and faith in the darkest times. ( )
  eliason | Sep 28, 2021 |
Oh man, I really liked this one (big thanks to my friend Martha Lynn for recommending it!). Kate Bowler is a church history professor at Duke Divinity School who in 2015, after some run arounds and misdiagnoses, was told she had stage 4 colon cancer. She was 35, had a young son, and was at the start of a promising career. Then everything stopped. After being rushed into surgery and being told she had a very slim chance of living more than a few months, she was ultimately accepted into a clinical trial that gave her a sliver of hope (and, spoiler alert, she is still alive! Yay! Reading books about people living with stage 4 cancer who have since died is a real bummer when you are living with stage 4 cancer yourself).

Bowler is Christian and Canadian, and grew up surrounded by Mennonites, even though she wasn't one herself. She went on to study (and write a dissertation on and then book about) prosperity gospel churches that believe that God will give you wealth and health and a good life if you only have enough faith (and conversely, if you are sick or poor, that probably means you are doing something wrong). Her faith, her family, her research, and her Canadian-ness all play a role in how she dives into the terminal illness world. And, because she is a writer, about a year into her cancer experience, Bowler wrote an article that was published in the New York Times which went viral and ultimately morphed into this extremely readable book.

All this may sound very grim, but Bowler is a hilarious writer who does a masterful job of balancing the profound, the heartbreaking, the inspirational, and the extremely hilarious aspects of living with advanced cancer. While she is personally Christian and has her own understanding of what that means, she has an open and curious approach to faith (and a beautiful way of explaining both her own faith and the religious experiences of other people), that make this an appealing book for Christians, non-Christians, and the non-religious alike. As someone who works in theological education and spends a lot of time with Seminary faculty, this perspective on faith that is both personal and intellectual, open and grounded, is something I'm really drawn to. I can also totally get behind her funny and faithful decision to take up cursing for Lent.

On a serious side, Bowler has an ability to perfectly distill some of the feelings and frustrations that I have encountered as well with this life changing diagnosis. As she lives from scan to scan, hopeful that the trial she is on can extend her life at least until some new treatment is discovered and approved, she writes “God, I am walking to the edge of a cliff. Build me a bridge. I need to get to the other side.” YES. And her description of The Minimizers, The Teachers, and The Solutions People as "the three life lessons people try to teach me that, frankly, sometimes feel worse than cancer itself" is now underlined, circled, and starred in my copy of the book.

Obviously the content of this book is more personal to me than it may be to a casual reader, but since this was a bestseller, I'm guessing you will like it too. If nothing else, grab a copy and check out the appendices listing some things to NEVER say to someone going through a terrible time, and some very helpful alternatives. She is spot on and the kind of writer that feels like a friend when you turn the last page of her book. ( )
  kristykay22 | May 22, 2021 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Life crisis meets religion as this woman talks about her bout with cancer and struggle with faith. ( )
  LivelyLady | Apr 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Bowlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ake, RachelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bachman, Barbara M.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
ZACH, MY DARLING,

I CAN SEE NOW HOW MY BEAUTIFUL LIFE

WAS ALWAYS FOR YOU
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There's a branch of Christianity that promises a cure for tragedy. (Preface)
My body had failed me before.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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"--

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Book description
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-- Provided by publisher.

Includes:
APPENDIX I: ABSOLUTELY NEVER SAY THIS TO PEOPLE EXPERIENCING TERRIBLE TIMES: A SHORT LIST

APPENDIX II: GIVE THIS A GO, SEE HOW IT WORKS: A SHORT LIST
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