Book Review: Everything Happens For A Reason. And Other Lies I've Loved

3 out of 5 stars

Format: Audio book - Adult Non-fiction - Goodreads summary:

Oof, I don't think I've ever actually reviewed non-fiction, so this will be interesting. I heard about this book on my local NPR station and was transfixed with the premise: a prosperity-gospel believer who receives news of a cancer diagnosis, and how she balances her beliefs with her reality. 

The audio book was narrated by the author, too, so I was in for a treat. What started off really strong and engaging soon turned annoying around the 25% mark. I hate being petty over personal things, but her voice was actually a bit grating the further I went into the story. It felt like one giant testimony at a women's conference, and felt slightly... disingenuous? Totally fixed by speeding it up to 1.25x, so she sounded like a regular gal talking to a friend. Let me be clear: I'm a God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christian woman who was raised in the faith, but also pursue a relationship with God in my adult life. I'm not jaded by corporate worship. I'm not jumping on chairs during concert-worship either. I'm not holding poisonous snakes, but I'm also not a pew warmer. So there's balance, and I feel like I should've come out of this book not so annoyed, haha. 

LET'S DISSECT! The narrator over-felt the words. And because I knew she was the author, it came across as self-reverential. While beautifully written, it set me up to be emotionally exhausted. And it was a book all about cancer, which my family has personal experience with, so it was just a lot. I often had to put this audio book aside for a few days before I could pick it back up again.

And I know it's non-fiction, but the author was seemingly in the exact same place at the end of the book as when she started which left me asking "what was the point of that?" There were rare glimpses of humor that I really wanted to see more of. And there was an edge while she characterized some prosperity-gospel believers. Yet, in the end, she remained unchanged and still clung to that values system. It left me confused. And a little angry. 

Bowler is a beautiful writer, but the timeline of her story was another point of confusion. I was unable to journey toward a particular destination because I had no sense of where we were. One paragraph we're in the moment post-diagnosis. Then we jump to a tale of college days, then we're in the hospital after her first surgery, then we're back to when her and her husband first met. My head was spinning, but I followed. I just wish it had been a bit more linear.

Bowler also struck me as someone who had a lot of difficulty coping during her illness. I appreciated her honesty, and know what it feels like when you think the world should stop spinning and acknowledge your suffering. But the way she talked of herself/her beliefs versus others' just rubbed me the wrong way. It was pretty judgmental in spots and had an undertone of immaturity. Surely, even as you're suffering, you realize people have to go to work. She (within the story) kept getting angry with people who didn't understand her situation, but did she ever try to enlighten them? No. She just wanted nothing to do with them because they said the wrong thing. And while you write the truth in non-fiction, I wish the author had acknowledged this in the narration.

Personally, I believe God wants us to enjoy this life and be happy while still honoring him. I believe he blesses people, but even if he didn't, he's still God. Not all good is from God and not all evil is from the devil. Some bad things just happen because we live in a broken world. Really good-looking things turn out to merely be a temptation. I'm sure bread and rescue looked pretty good to Jesus in the desert, but they were straight up of the devil. And I know plenty of people living in wealth and worldly riches who aren't godly. So it can't just be: do good, get blessed; do bad, get blessings revoked.

Overall, I don't feel I learned from her story. I still don't know how she, or anyone else in the prosperity camp, justify how God deals out things like cancer, and that's what I was hoping to learn. There's just a lot left unresolved for me as a reader, so it's a 3-Star book for me. I think for some, this would be an amazing, heartfelt read. Just wasn't my favorite.