Every once in a while, I read a book that is so thought-provoking, so inspirational, so moving, so poignant that I immediately want to read it again, to experience the rush of insight one more time. Everything Happens for a Reason is that book. The author is an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School. Her graduate work and primary expertise centers around the Prosperity Gospel, a creed that sees fortune as a blessing from God and misfortune as a mark of God’s disapproval. At the age of 35, when her life was otherwise abundant with blessings, she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. As she realizes that life, and her disease, cannot be controlled by positive thinking and a can-do attitude, she is forced to confront the question “What does it mean to die in a society that insists everything happens for a reason?” Bowler takes the reader on a very personal, oftenhumorous, often-difficult journey through her struggle to accept that without the Prosperity Gospel, life can be difficult but also incredible.
The thought-provoking debut novel by Imbolo Mbue, takes a humanistic approach to the challenges of immigration, the importance of family, class structure in America and Africa, and begs the question of what we need to be truly happy. Jende Jonga and his wife Neni move from Cameroon to New York in search of a better life and a chance to achieve the “American Dream.” As they struggle to obtain Green Cards and work towards American citizenship, Jende secures a job as a driver for Clark Edwards, a successful Wall Street executive, and Neni works for Clark’s wife Cindy as a housekeeper at their mansion in the Hamptons. However, less than a year later, the 2008 financial collapse induces stress on the Edwards’ finances and their marriage, exposing secrets and threatening Jende and Neni’s dreams. Jende and Neni must decide what happiness, success, and family really mean and what price they must pay to stay in America.