The quote "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes" is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and it points to the eventual fate of us all. Death, we each know, will find us some day, somehow. This fact doesn't mean we like to talk about it or dwell on it for very long, especially if we are in the prime of our lives. For someone in their mid-30s, death is practically unthinkable. If pondered at all, it is thought of as a distant, future event.
In 2015, at the age of 35, Kate Bowler learns she is much closer to her eventual end than she could have imagined. After suffering from terrible stomach pains originally blamed on a faulty gallbladder, Bowler learns her devastating and surprising diagnosis. She actually has stage 4 colon cancer.
Why me? Why now? Is God fair? What will happen to my husband and 2-year-old son? These are just a few of the questions Bowler explores in "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved," a beautifully written, honest, heartbreaking and humorous memoir that depicts Bowler's reckoning with her diagnosis and an uncertain future.
As Bowler learns more about her cancer and its possible treatments, she navigates through a foreign world of needles, ports, CT scans and the well meaning, yet exasperating comments she is now on the receiving end of. One of those is the well-known "Everything happens for a reason" explanation that isn't nearly as comforting as it is intended to be. As Bowler continues her fight, she reminds herself of this truth: "Life is beautiful. Life is hard."
Her memoir overflows with stories that illustrate these human states. In 2016, Bowler pens an moving op-ed piece for the New York Times about the "irony of being an expert in health, wealth and happiness while being ill." This article and memoir are well worth your reading time. Bowler is a courageous, faith-filled woman who does not sugar coat her ups and downs as she writes in a relatable, easy way. She has an extraordinary outlook that left me with a deeper understanding of that certainty in life we all face and must ultimately walk alone.
Bowler is an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School and has done extensive research on the history of the American Prosperity Gospel Movement, authoring a book entitled "Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel." She maintains a blog at katebowler.com/blog/.
Claudia Cook is director of Missouri River Regional Library.