Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved

I read Kate Bowler’s new book in one sitting while a gurgling, nocturnal eight week old breathed into my neck. I am not sure I recommend reading another mother’s account of dying while still squinting through the haze of postpartum depression. But I am not sure I don’t recommend it, either. Sometimes solitary communion is just the thing for a dimmed heart. Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved is many, many things.

It is:

A rumination on the questions many believers ask at one point or another,


“God, are you here?”

“What does this suffering mean?”

A call to believing women – during an earlier health crisis and then the months leading up to her cancer diagnosis Kate is told by doctor after doctor that her pain is exaggerated, misplaced or indicative of nothing more than emotional distress. Both times they are very wrong.

A guide for anyone who loves someone who is in mental or physical pain. Her advice on what not to say to people in the midst of crisis is the best read on the subject this daughter of a cancer victim has ever read. And while there are a few things I’d add to it, most contain four letter words and so for the sake of the gentle BCC reader, I will leave them to another post, another time.

A document that gives the sick and hurt express permission to feel no shame, to abandon all guilt over not knowing how the hell to respond to right now or what may be.

A nod to a God that waits and does not always heal.

An opportunity to witness a sister’s hopes, hurts, uncertainty, unraveling, peace and path.

And for me, while I rocked my baby and read about Kate contemplating leaving hers, it was an affirmation that much of the work of living life is preparing to leave it. To leave the babies we’ve made, to leave the relationships we’ve forged, to leave the people we’ve touched. To leave them better for the pressure of our hands upon their heads.

As a friend says to her, “we are all terminal.” Kate has an idea of what will take her from her time here and I do not. Still, we will both be taken just the same.

In confronting her cancer, in accepting that yes, she will die but there is a good work to be done until then, Kate teaches us the same lesson God seems intent on spilling out across mortality.

Life doesn’t keep. But Love does.

And so we are saved, even when all seems lost.


(Find her book here.)


  1. Kate is great. That sums it up for me. Her words have always been profound for me. Looking forward (with some hope and fear) to reading. Thanks for the review.

  2. Library hold button pushed.

  3. Paula Schmidt-Lewis says:

    I heard Katie today for the first time while driving to a doctor’s appointment and listening to her interview on Fresh Air. Her story was palpable. It mixed humor with profound sadness, despair with newfound joy, moments of great “ah ha’s,” juxtaposed against the most daunting unanswerable questions that we must all inevitably face. I found that Katie’s way of sharing her journey –both with eloquence and raw emotion–gave voice to so many parallel feelings and situations I’ve experienced as well during my now seventeen year war on cancer. And as I listened and cried along with her I realized that a whole new level of deeply buried grief I’d been carrying for God knows how long had not only bubbled up but broken loose. I came home and ordered Katie’s new memoir, and after I read it, I plan to pass it around the family first to my now adult children whose lives have been shaped in part by the rarely spoken fears they have harbored for years about their mother’s health. Thank you Katie for your refreshing honesty , your courage to speak out, and your keen wit. I can’t say that I look forward to reading your memoir because I know it will be gut wrenching. But I certainly know it is a memoir I cannot miss.

  4. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks for the review and your perspective. I also listened to her interview on NPR, and found it remarkable.

  5. This looks awesome. Thanks for a great review.

  6. I heard the NPR interview and was blown away — there’s real wisdom and power!

  7. Ed Heppner says:

    I find this interesting I haven’t read the book but That circumstances in life changes a person’s belief system, instead of our belief system determined by the Word of God and rejecting a belief of some once accepted truths instead of maybe digging deeper and find out the real truth and not necessarily accepting just what is said on television but making the truth real for oneself. It reminds of a time when a particular denomination as I understand it did a study on does God heal today. and if I remember correctly they determined that it was not God’s will to heal all the time because that is what they experienced and of course tried I think to back that up with scripture. I believe that we should base our beliefs on the Word and not our experience. Just a comment about a little of what I read , she seems to be saying that if a person is not experiencing the blessing that they are inferior or she experiences condemnation because ” she should have the faith” some may say in a condescending manner. if she receives it that way or if people say that This is not correct but it doesn’t change the truth. Don’t run away from the truth, but find the correct perspective about the truth. It might be a interesting read but it seems to me it would be a lot of dissecting and the flavor does not seem to be correct perhaps, so I think I will pass on reading it. Thanks

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