Professor Andy Waite has dedicated much of his life to the field of evolutionary biology and has poured himself into both his teaching and research since his wife's sudden death at the hands of a drunk driver. When he is approached by Melissa, an impassioned Christian seeking an advisor for her independent study on intelligent design, Andy's first inclination is to refuse. Still driven by the events of his past, Andy soon finds Melissa changing his life - whether he intended her to or not.
I hesitate to say too much about Andy's journey because it's one worth reading in its entirety. Lauren Grodstein's characters feel very real and make the same rash life choices that people do in real life, particularly when they are overcome by guilt or grief. The novel does show several connected characters making the same drastic decisions, which seems a little over the top. Still, The Explanation for Everything manages to tackle some big, heavy topics without ever dropping the weight on readers.
Rather than seeking an answer in the debate over intelligent design, The Explanation for Everything examines how faith, or lack thereof, can be shaken by loss or personal tragedy. While this might come across as an uncommitted resolution to some, it allows Grodstein to write a novel that can appeal to readers from across the religious spectrum. In the end, The Explanation for Everything is thought-provoking and compulsively readable as it focuses on the blurred lines between faith and doubt.