The Explanation for Everything

By Lauren Grodstein (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

It’s one of the most basic and enduring arguments of our time: creationism versus Darwinism; intelligent design versus evolution. In Lauren Grodstein’s newest novel, it is precisely this argument that is taken up, over and over, from the perspectives of its protagonist, a professor of ethics in biology who offers a popular (though highly contested) seminar referred to by students as “There is No God,” and a religious student he takes on for an independent study on the probability of intelligent design over evolution. This is an academic novel about the reluctant embrace of uncertainty, doubt and debate---the cornerstones of academia---which goes just deeply enough into the politics of the institution to avoid alienating readers unfamiliar with this strange world. Although the central romance fails to live up to the author’s flair for subtle realism, and some of the dogmatic debates become repetitive, it’s an enjoyable, entertaining novel.

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