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A little romance fails to lighten a heavy-handed parable about the limits of belief and intolerance in Grodstein's third novel (after A Friend of the Family). Biology professor Andy Waite, preoccupied with applying for tenure and securing a major grant, is relieved to be teaching his signature biology course, which is called "There Is No God." Grieving for his wife Lou, who was killed by a drunk driver, Andy throws himself into his responsibilities and does what he can to keep her killer in prison, but he's lost when it comes to shepherding his two daughters through problems with school and friends. Then transfer student Melissa Potter enlists Andy to sponsor her independent study project about intelligent design. She also babysits for the Waites, bringing her closer to Andy and his family and to changing Andy's mind about the existence of a higher power. The cultural clash engineered by the author opens as fresh and diverting, but gets bogged down in improbable plot turns involving Andy's neighbor and Melissa's megachurch. Heady discussions about God between Andy and Melissa feel as unrealistic as their romance, leaving a void where a lively debate should have been. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (Sept. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Andy Waite is just about holding his life together, trying to raise his two young daughters after his wife, Louisa, was killed by a drunk driver. As a biologist, Andy devotes himself to researching the effects of alcohol on laboratory mice. He is also obsessed with preventing the guy who killed Louisa from being paroled. At the mediocre college in southern New Jersey where he teaches, Andy offers a class called "There Is No God" on evolutionary biology. Most of his students are apathetic, except for a few evangelicals who strongly disagree with him. Then a persistent undergraduate named Melissa persuades him to sponsor her independent study project on intelligent design, and Andy reluctantly agrees. As Melissa becomes less sure of her religious convictions, Andy reevaluates his ideas about belief and forgiveness. VERDICT Many novelists explore love and loss, but Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) adroitly tackles big questions about faith and science, guilt and responsibility, punishment and healing. This engaging, and provocative novel is hard to put down. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 6/24/13.]--Leslie -Patterson, Rehoboth, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Andy Waite is a biology professor who has never gone in for religion, but he lives for glimpses of his wife's ghost. He's trying to balance grief and fatherhood and a complicated relationship with his neighbor while applying for a grant that would help him prove that the brains of alcoholic mice are wired differently. None of it is going very well, although he is a pretty decent father to his two young girls. Then his seminar on Darwinism, There Is No God, is infiltrated by a Campus Crusader for Christ, and a student asks him to sponsor her independent study on intelligent design. All of this leads him to question the faith he was so confident he did not have. Nothing is neatly answered, and even though some of Andy's actions are desperately cringe-worthy, you root for his hard-won wisdom. Grodstein handles everything with a subtle wit, managing to skewer both the ultraconservative and the ultraliberal without making either seem absolutely wrong. Both the tone and the plot of the grieving professor finding answers in science are reminiscent of Carolyn Parkhurst's Dogs of Babel (2003).--Maguire, Susan Copyright 2010 Booklist