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Everything Happens for a Reason
Cover of Everything Happens for a Reason
Everything Happens for a Reason
And Other Lies I've Loved
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • "A meditation on sense-making when there's no sense to be made, on letting go when we can't hold on, and on being unafraid even when we're terrified."—Lucy Kalanithi
"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."—Bill Gates
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY REAL SIMPLE

Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School with a modest Christian upbringing, but she specializes in the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God's disapproval. At thirty-five, everything in her life seems to point toward "blessing." She is thriving in her job, married to her high school sweetheart, and loves life with her newborn son.
Then she is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.
The prospect of her own mortality forces Kate to realize that she has been tacitly subscribing to the prosperity gospel, living with the conviction that she can control the shape of her life with "a surge of determination." Even as this type of Christianity celebrates the American can-do spirit, it implies that if you "can't do" and succumb to illness or misfortune, you are a failure. Kate is very sick, and no amount of positive thinking will shrink her tumors. What does it mean to die, she wonders, in a society that insists everything happens for a reason? Kate is stripped of this certainty only to discover that without it, life is hard but beautiful in a way it never has been before.
Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an account she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. Everything Happens for a Reason tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live.
Praise for Everything Happens for a Reason

"I fell hard and fast for Kate Bowler. Her writing is naked, elegant, and gripping—she's like a Christian Joan Didion. I left Kate's story feeling more present, more grateful, and a hell of a lot less alone. And what else is art for?"—Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Love Warrior and president of Together Rising
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • "A meditation on sense-making when there's no sense to be made, on letting go when we can't hold on, and on being unafraid even when we're terrified."—Lucy Kalanithi
"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."—Bill Gates
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY REAL SIMPLE

Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School with a modest Christian upbringing, but she specializes in the study of the prosperity gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God's disapproval. At thirty-five, everything in her life seems to point toward "blessing." She is thriving in her job, married to her high school sweetheart, and loves life with her newborn son.
Then she is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.
The prospect of her own mortality forces Kate to realize that she has been tacitly subscribing to the prosperity gospel, living with the conviction that she can control the shape of her life with "a surge of determination." Even as this type of Christianity celebrates the American can-do spirit, it implies that if you "can't do" and succumb to illness or misfortune, you are a failure. Kate is very sick, and no amount of positive thinking will shrink her tumors. What does it mean to die, she wonders, in a society that insists everything happens for a reason? Kate is stripped of this certainty only to discover that without it, life is hard but beautiful in a way it never has been before.
Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an account she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. Everything Happens for a Reason tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live.
Praise for Everything Happens for a Reason

"I fell hard and fast for Kate Bowler. Her writing is naked, elegant, and gripping—she's like a Christian Joan Didion. I left Kate's story feeling more present, more grateful, and a hell of a lot less alone. And what else is art for?"—Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Love Warrior and president of Together Rising
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 1

    Diagnosis

    I had lost almost thirty pounds by the time I was referred to a gastrointestinal surgeon at Duke University Hospital. Every few hours I doubled over from a stabbing pain in my stomach. This had happened so often over the last three months that I had developed a little ritual for it: reach for the nearest wall with the right hand, clutch my stomach with the left hand, close my eyes, keep perfectly silent. When the pain subsided, I would reach into my purse, take a swig from a giant bottle of antacid, stand up straight, and resume whatever I was doing without comment. It was a little creepy to watch, I'm sure, but it was the best I could do at pretending for so long. Now I was tired of pretending. I eyed the surgeon warily as he came into the small examining room where my husband, Toban, and I waited. He sat down heavily on his stool, sighing as if already annoyed.

    Then he said, "Well, I looked at your latest tests and they don't tell us anything conclusive."

    "I don't understand," I protested. "I thought the last test suggested that it was probably my gallbladder."

    "It's not entirely clear," he said in a hard voice.

    "So you're not prepared to operate,"

    "Look, there is nothing to suggest that we are going after the right thing. I can take out your gallbladder and you might be in the same pain you're in today. Plus the pain and inconvenience of a surgery."

    I sighed. "I don't know how to get you, or anyone, to pay attention. I've been to all your specialists, but I have been in a crazy amount of pain for three months now, and I can't keep doing this."

    "Look," he said, as if having to start all over again. "We're at the squishy end of an already squishy diagnosis." He throws it back at me, nonchalant. "Again, I can take it out, but I don't know what you want me to say."

    "I want you to say that you're not going to rule out the gallbladder surgery and just send me back out there with everyone else! No one is trying to help me solve this, and I can't take it anymore!" I could hear the desperation leaking out.

    "I'm sorry you feel that way," he said. We sat there glaring at each other.

    "I'm not leaving," I said loudly. "I am not leaving until you send me for another test."

    "Okay. Fine," he said, and he rolled his eyes.

    "Okay."

    He wrote a note to authorize a CT scan, and I felt only relieved annoyance. They would find something simple and that would be the end of it. I'd just have to schedule my life around a surgery, nothing major.

    I am at the office, pacing at my treadmill desk and flipping through my latest research, when my phone rings.

    "Hello, this is Kate."

    It's Jan from the doctor's office. She has a little speech prepared, but my mind is zeroing in and out. I can hear that she is talking, but I can't make out the words. It is not my gallbladder, I catch that much. But now it is everywhere.

    "What's everywhere now?" I ask.

    "Cancer."

    I listen to the buzz of the phone.

    "Ms. Bowler." I absentmindedly put it back up to my ear.

    "Yes?"

    "We're going to need you to come in to the hospital right away."

    "Sure, sure."

    I need to call Toban.

    "Ma'am?"

    "No, sure. I get it. I'll be right there."

    "I'll send someone down to the lobby to get you.

    "Ma'am?"

    "Sure, sure," I say, almost inaudibly. "I have a son. It's just that I have a son."

    There is a long silence.

    "Yes," she says, "I'm sorry." She pauses. I picture her, standing near an office phone riffling through charts. Likely there are more people to call. "But we're going to need you to come...
About the Author-
  • Kate Bowler is an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School. A graduate of Yale Divinity School and Duke University, Bowler is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2017

    A divinity professor and historian of the American Prosperity Gospel--the megachurch promise that you'll be rewarded for good behavior and get what you want if you want it enough--Bowler found she craved that same sense of certainty when she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Now, she realized, her husband and child would be moving on without her. Expanded from a popular essay published on Valentine's Day, 2016, in the New York Times.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2017
    A touching tale of battling cancer set against the backdrop of the prosperity gospel.Bowler (Duke Divinity School; Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, 2013), a specialist in the study of the prosperity gospel, found her life turned upside down in her mid-30s with a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. Here, she chronicles her journey from what seemed a death sentence to a lifestyle of living from one medical test to another, surviving as a result of the effects of a clinical trial and a stalwart community of friends and family. Throughout, the author delivers raw emotion, realistic description, and candid assessments, and she weaves in references to the faith system she has studied and, indeed, of which she has become a community member. Bowler points out the ironies of fighting a deadly battle against her own body while relating to a strand of Christianity that teaches that faith, holiness, and confidence will provide any sort of blessing or healing the believer needs. From Oprah to Osteen, Bowler examines the effects of such preaching upon people of faith, including the depth of turmoil that true tragedy often brings. The author sees her cancer story unfold in liturgical terms, using Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time to explain her journey. Ultimately, in Ordinary Time (the bulk of the church year), she discovers the power of being present in life, enjoying her family, and finding meaning where she is able. Bowler's reflections will speak to those who have suffered similar illnesses and existential crises, and secondary themes abound: the inhumane and often emotionless face of modern health care, the capacity of family and close friends to give of themselves through love and generosity, the well-meaning but foolish things that people say to those who are living with serious health issues, and more.An inspiring story of finding faith--in God, in family, and in oneself--while walking close to the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 11, 2017
    With grace, wisdom, and humor, Bowler (Blessed), a divinity professor at Duke University, tells of her cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment in a way that pierces platitudes to showcase her resilience in the face of impending death. At 35 years old, after months of enduring stomach pains and visiting specialists who had conflicting suggestions, Bowler was rushed into emergency surgery for stage IV colon cancer. Surrounded by her husband, very young son, and a host of supportive friends, she faces down the likelihood that she will not live a year. As she responds well to treatment, she enters a period of uncertainty, hoping to survive and maximize her time with her family. Throughout her account of weekly flights to Atlanta from North Carolina for experimental therapy and realizations that each holiday might be her last, she relates her suddenly terrifying life to her academic work on the prosperity gospel—a peculiarly American belief in deserved success and control that is at odds with her current life. Bowler’s lovely prose and sharp wit capture her struggle to find continued joy after her diagnosis. This poignant look at the unpredictable promises of faith will amaze readers.

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