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Book Club: Everything Happens For A Reason, Chapter 3

magic in a field

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler.  Catch up on Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Let’s get started!

Chapter 3: Magic Tricks

Commentary by Amy C.:

So far this book is not something that aligns with my life beliefs. I am not a religious person so that throws me off a bit. Chapter 3 Magic Tricks kept with the first two chapters. It starts with a negative tone. She describes a magic show she went to where she did not have a great time which lead into her comparing that to sudo-medical cures like the headphones for an autistic child. Then moves to preachers mailing out wallets promising to multiply the dollars and special bracelets. Although she scoffs at these ideas she does say she tried everything when her arms wouldn’t work. The idea of trying everything and anything no matter how ridiculous really resonates with me. “Caring less about whether it made any sense, just needed it to work”.

When she said she had tried everything and talked to so many doctors. I would have thought she would have tried a Physical Therapist. Maybe because I worked in that industry, but that was my first thought when she was describing her symptoms. So it’s interesting that her doctors went to surgery before trying physical therapy. Especially something like that could be spotted on an X-ray or MRI.

It is interesting that she had this life changing experience before cancer. It makes another diagnosis somewhat harder. After making it through this and thinking you are recovered then having another setback is extremely tough.

The end of the chapter connects back to the Prosperity Gospel. At that time she became the symbol of hope for those close to her. That God will help those that keep him in their hearts. All in all a somewhat strange chapter. The beginning about magic doesn’t really connect with her finding a physical therapist and a valid medical reason for her condition.

Commentary by Krystal H.:

I’ll be honest. This chapter was hard for me because it reminded me of so many friends who I’ve known in my life who, essentially, believe in the “name it, claim it” stuff. They might call it something else, like positive confession. Others have called it “having a prophetic tongue,” so one must be careful what they speak and call upon themselves.

One of my friends, during my diagnosis, used this line on me. He told me that I was calling cancer into my body just by talking about the diagnostics and telling people that I might be dealing with cancer.

That moment is one of the moments of those painful months that stands out crystal clear in my memory. That, and when he asked me if I was getting off on the attention (seriously, dude??).

These rituals … holding vigil over a dead body (like in the chapter), refusing to allow me to even say the word ‘cancer’ for fear that I was calling it … it’s like trying to hold back the wind. There are some things that we just cannot change. There are things that are out of our control, no matter how hard we try to deny that fact. Health is not in our control. Not fully. When we die—nah. No control over that, either.

Cancer is a harsh sieve through which all our circumstances get sifted. Some of the things we want most to be substantial and solid—our health, our mortality, even our friends and family—are nothing but sand that slips away. All that’s left are the pebbles that we previously overlooked.

Learning this lesson has been HARD. I don’t get to pretend that I’m immortal anymore. I push myself to live in the present, focusing so much more on the quality of my life, rather than living in fear about the quantity.

Hopefully, when my time’s up, I won’t have regrets from a life clinging to sand. Hopefully, I’ll have taken those little pebbles left in the sieve, polished them and loved them, and I’ll leave behind a treasure of gems.

Commentary by P.O.:

In chapter 3, “Magic Tricks,” Bowler recalls attending a magic show. Seeing the magic trick from afar, she sees a magic trick gone wrong and whatever was supposed to happen, didn’t. Something had malfunctioned. Bowler then describes magic she has seen up close. Recalling situations from studying the prosperity gospel, she describes parents buying their dying child shoes in hopes that the child could walk, preachers promising money to multiply in wallets that they mailed out to believers. Bowler is showing how when one is far removed, you see that it’s just a performance, a magic trick- an illusion. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. But when affected by tragedy or looking for answers, it’s easy to buy into “magic tricks.” Bowler is looking for answers for her condition. She tries anything to restore her arm strength. She is buying into magic tricks too- the special bracelet, magnets and detoxifying foot bath- all in attempt to cure her- “I was trying everything and caring less about whether it made any sense. I just needed it to work.” This same idea applies to the Physical Therapist (PT)who easily diagnoses her and easily restores her- despite other healthcare providers unable to help her. Whatever the PT did works. Subsequently good things start to happen in Bowler’s professional life. The people that she is studying in her prosperity gospel research note that these are all signs that the prosperity gospel philosophy works. Althoug Bowler is just researching the prosperity gospel, has she bought into it somewhat herself at this point? To what extent, as individuals or as a culture, do we believe that there are reasons and explanations for why good things happen? To what extent do we believe we deserve it or owed it? What about when bad things happen? How is that explained? We celebrate and maybe believe we deserve the good, but what about the bad? Did we deserve that? It is interesting the reasons we tell ourselves why a good or bad thing happens and how far we go and the things we do to try to change something even if it doesn’t make sense. Getting a cancer diagnosis is just something that happened. I didn’t deserve or was being punished. I also didn’t deserve my loving parents and siblings. Did I do something to make that happen? No. I had nothing to do with that. There are just some things in life that happen-the good and the bad- and we didn’t do anything to deserve it.

Commentary by Laura P.:

Magic – is it real or just a trick? In chapter three, Kate Bowler considers the magic tricks she has witnessed: a botched magic show, the sad desperate acts of parents trying to fix their children, and the convenient preachers and healers who promise riches and health. At some point we all get a little desperate for magic, and sometimes we get tricked.

Kate Bowler describes that gratifying feeling when magic seems to be on your side. For her it was getting an answer as to why her arms were failing her, healing from this debilitating injury, landing her dream job, and securing a contract to write a book. For me, it felt like magic was on my side when I found out my cancer was stage one and curable. Magic was the too-good-to-be-true moment when I finished treatment and heard the word remission. Bowler also describes the devastation of magic failing through a story of friends who gathered around to pray all day and night in an effort to resurrect a life that ended too soon. For me, magic failed when my cancer came back.

Cancer survivors have to navigate so many magic tricks. This chapter made me reflect on all the ways I have tried tapping into magic while reaching for the elusive cure from my lymphoma. I’ve tried to balance my dosha. I’ve tried to harness the power of positive thinking. I’ve swallowed herbal supplements and shots of wheat grass. Kate Bowler writes, “I was trying everything and caring less about whether it made any sense. I just needed it to work.” This is just so relatable.

Join in next Monday for the comments and discussion on Chapter 4: Seasons!

Thanks for joining us for Chapter 3: Magic Tricks of  Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler!  Join in next Monday for the next chapter!

We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done.  If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday.  Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss.  We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end!  Join in, in the comments every week!  Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us!

Excited about the young adult cancer book club?  Have any suggestions for future reads?  Let us know!