Lauren Grodstein is the author of the bestselling "A Friend of the Family." Her new novel takes on the thorny issue of personal faith vs. doubt. Here's how it begins:
The first time Andy met Louisa, she was covered in blood. He was a bit bloodied himself, having just suffered a minor bicycle accident where Nassau intersects with Mercer and nobody can see himself coming or going. It was a Sunday morning in 1994, and Andy was wearing the ridiculous clothing he'd let himself get talked into by the cute salesgirl at Kopp's, purple spandex shorts — "junk huggers!" Rosenbaum hooted — and a black and silver nylon shirt. Anyway he'd been daydreaming, yes, but he was reflexively careful at that intersection. And then an Audi out of nowhere, some cursing, an unnecessary ambulance, and now here he was, cradling what was almost certainly a broken wrist and thinking about his dissertation and the way the Mercer County emergency room smelled like urine and paint. The orange plastic chair was hard under his butt; his bicycle-friendly spandex shorts offered no padding whatsoever.
Then, as CNN began to rotate through yet another story on O.J. Simpson, this girl sat down next to him, hair trailing down her shoulders and around her face, the most magnificent sample of human hair he'd ever seen. Brown and gold streaks and some blond in there too, curls and waves, like in a magazine. The face wasn't bad either, as far as he could tell from profile: a nice curve of the cheek, a slightly oversized, bumpy nose, a full mouth. But it was that hair he couldn't stop looking at. He had the absurd compulsion to stick his hands in it, and was grateful to his probably broken wrist for stopping what would have otherwise been a sure breach of etiquette.
She was not looking at him. Her left hand was wrapped in red-stained gauze, and she had blood on her white T-shirt, and blood on her jeans.
From "The Explanation for Everything," by Lauren Grodstein. Used with permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.