Book Review: The Book of Why by Nicholas Montemarano

The Book of Why by Nicholas MontemaranoNetgalley sends me emails about books they think I might like to read. This is one book that they allowed me to read without having to request it first, it was there up for grabs. It looked interesting so I downloaded it. And yes, this was a good read!

The Book of Why: What it is about

From the publishers: “The power to solve your problems is within you-with the right sense of belief, the mind’s ability to create success, happiness, and health is limitless.

At least that’s the philosophy of self-help author Eric Newborn, whose books and lectures have spawned a legion of devoted followers who swear that his ideas have pulled their lives from the brink. But after the traumatic loss of his wife, Eric is left to face the darker side of his own teachings, living as a recluse in the home they shared on Martha’s Vineyard, struggling to reconcile his worldview with the pain he has suffered. It’s a fundamental question that haunts him: why?

When a fan with questions forces Eric to face the world once again, he’s put on a path that might lead him towards the closure he seeks, but in astounding ways he could never begin to dream.

At once a stirring portrait of a soul laid bare by grief and a celebration of coincidence and the magic of real connection, The Book of Why explores the deep powers of the heart and mind to shape the world around us, blurring the lines between loss and love, fate and free will, and despair and joy.”

The Book of Why: What I thought

The book starts off with Eric Newborn living a reclusive life on Martha’s Vineyard. One day, a woman comes by who wants directions to what turns out to be his own house, as she can’t find it. He claims he doesn’t know the street name but through circumstances, they spend some time together, and she helps him getting back into the real world.

There is a lot of looking back to Eric’s recent past, a few years ago, when his wife was still alive. Eric was a self-help guru with several books in his name, claiming if you believed something strong enough, it would happen. He has many followers but there are also people who doubt him: how can he claim that people with an incurable illness will be fine if only they believe they will be? When his own wife falls ill, he loses the belief in his own ideas.

Sometimes there are some paragraphs with lists: things people wrote to him in the past, advice he finds in books on how to deal with grief, etc. (“Some books say be modest. Some books say don’t be too modest. Some books say volunteer. Some books say take charge, stand straight, smile. Some books say take the stairs, not the elevator.” etc.). This is actually good fun.

What I also liked was the presence of Ralph, a female dog. She had been Eric’s wife’s dog and one of the few left-overs from his life with her. I also liked Sam, the woman that comes to visit. She is more spiritual than Eric, and believes her dead brother gives her useful information in her sleep. She convinces Eric to come with her and follow up on these ideas, leading to amazing coincidences that must be more than just coincidences. This helps Eric to comes to terms with the death of his wife. For me, the coincidences were unlikely, but acceptable as a part of the story.

This was a good story about loss and love, friendship and fate.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 320

First published: 2013, January 8th

I got this book: from the publishers via Netgalley (ebook)

Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction


Have you read this book?

What did you think?


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

12 Responses to Book Review: The Book of Why by Nicholas Montemarano

  1. JoV says:

    I got this from NetGalley and do want to read it too! I am glad it was nice…

  2. Charlie says:

    I was offered this too, though it didn’t sound half as interesting as you’ve made it. I like that the character is an extreme believer who has to rethink his beliefs.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, I liked that, Charlie. I’m not really “into” self-help books, and his ideas sounded way-off to me. So it was fun to see how he changed his mind.

  3. Jasmine says:

    Interesting read! Seems like teacher becomes student of his own philosophy.

  4. bibliosue says:

    An interesting premise for a novel. For some reason when I first read your review I thought it was non-fiction, but then I re-read your post and it made more sense.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Suzanne, when I was offered the book I had to check twice. I thought it was non-fiction too. But I would not be surprised if this was based on the author’s experiences, it feels that way (no idea if it is true, though).

  5. Marie says:

    I like the premise of this, but it sounds very familiar – I wonder if there has been a similar movie made in the past few years, about a writer of self-help books or something…I am very sceptical about self-help books so it would be interesting to see what happens when he is forced to take a good hard look at his philosophies.

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