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

Kate Bowler
Random House
Published Year: 
Cover image for Professor Kate Bowler's new memoir

Kate Bowler, assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School, has written a memoir telling the story of her struggle to understand the personal and intellectual dimensions of the American belief that all tragedies are tests of character after she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35.

The book, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, will be published Feb. 6 by Random House. Bowler, a historian who specializes in the study of the American prosperity gospel, is also the author of the 2013 critically acclaimed book, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, the first history of the movement based on divine promises of health, wealth, and happiness.

In 2015, when Bowler’s life seem “blessed” by thriving in her job, marriage to her high school sweetheart, and a newborn son, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with colon cancer. In this resulting memoir, the prospect of her own mortality forces Bowler 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.”

Against the backdrop of this type of Christianity that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval while also celebrating the American can-do spirit, Bowler shares her struggles with the implication that if you succumb to illness or misfortune, you are a failure. In the book, Bowler explores what it means to die in a society that insists everything happens for a reason only to discover that being stripped of this certainty allows her to discover that life is hard but beautiful in a way it never has been before.

While doing so, the Canadian-born Bowler pulls the “reader deeply into her life populated affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors” while “offering up irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live.”

More about Kate Bowler

Read about Bowler's new podcast, "Everything Happens," and listen on iTunes.

Read her Jan. 26, 2018 New York Times essay in Sunday Review:  What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party

See a video of Bowler discussing the exploration of the pain and joy of living without certainty in a Feb. 1 Duke Today article on new books written this winter by Duke faculty. 

Hear Bowler discuss her book in an episode of the “Can These Bones” podcast by Faith & Leadership, the online magazine of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

Read a Q&A with Bowler in TIME magazine discussing how her cancer diagnosis affected her faith, career, and parenting.

Read other media interviews or reviews of her book on the Duke Divinity School's Facuty in the Media section of the website.

Attend a book signing with Bowler being hosted by The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 13.

Read her 2016 New York Times essay: “Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me.”

Visit Bowler's website for more information about the memoir or to contact her.