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Ember Series #3
The Prophet of Yonwood

by Jeanne DuPrau


p.26-27 The president ended with his usual sentence: “Let us pray to God for the safety of our people and the success of our endeavors.” Nickie always wondered about this. The idea seemed to be that if you prayed extremely hard--especially if a lot of people prayed at once--maybe God would change things. The trouble was, what if your enemy was praying to? Which prayer would God listen to?

p.28 This is how Nickie was: she wanted to know about everybody and everything--not just encyclopedia-type information, but ordinary things like what people did at their jobs and what their houses looked like inside and what they talked about. When she passed two or three people walking together on the street, she always hoped to catch an intriguing bit of conversation, like “I found her lying there dead!” Or “...and he left that very day without telling a soul and was never seen again!” But almost always, all she heard were the dull, connecting bits of the conversation, things like “And so I said to her...” and “Yeah, I think so too,” and “So it’s really kind of like...” And by the time they said whatever came next, they were out of earshot.

p.57-58 As soon as Amanda had gone off with Mrs. Beeson, Nickie found a pencil and a scrap of paper and wrote down these words: Sinners. Wrongness. Forces of evil. Shield of goodness. Those were the things to remember. It was so perfect--she could accomplish her Goal #3 by helping to battle the forces of evil and build the shield of goodness. Just the very words made her feel like a warrior. Maybe she should give something up, the way everyone else was. If she did, would she have more love to give to God? She thought probably her love for God was a little weak, since she didn’t know much about him and hadn’t really thought about whether she loved him or not. It was hard to love someone invisible that you’d never met.

p.140 Nothing large and pale lived in the woods, as far as he knew. He couldn’t think what it could possibly be. Maybe some huge white bird? A stork? But why would there be a stork in the woods? There wouldn’t. A ghost? He didn’t believe in ghosts. Anyway, a ghost wouldn’t make a rustling sound, would it?

p.173-174 They had stopped at a brick house with a collapsing woodshed next to it. Mrs. Beeson opened the mailbox. She reached into the canvas bag and took out a blue envelope. In the upper left corner were the words “Urgent: From B. Beeson.” She put it in the mailbox, and they moved on.
     Nickie started to ask again what was in the envelopes, but Mrs. Beeson was already talking. “Sometimes I’m sorry this ever happened,” she said. “that vision of Althea’s, and then the instructions afterward. Some parts of it are very hard. The punishment part, for instance.”
     “Punishment?” said Nickie.
     Mrs. Beeson turned a corner and headed up Fern Street, walking so quickly that Nickie kept getting left behind. “Yes, for people who just won’t cooperate,” Mrs. Beeson said. “We can’t allow that, can we? It would be letting down everyone else in Yonwood.”
     “What’s the punishment?” Nickie asked.
     But what Mrs. Beeson must not have heard her over the splash of the rain. “It’s such a responsibility,” she went on. “I’ve agonized over it, I must admit. Some of the things she says--I don’t know. I hate to think she really means--” She shook her head, staring down at the wet sidewalk. “I just hesitate to--”
     Then suddenly she stopped, and a little rush of water flowed off the top of her pink hat onto Nickie’s head. Her voice became strong again. “What am I saying? I hesitate? Just because something is hard? Just because it means making a sacrifice? No, no, no. That’s what faith is, isn’t it? Believing even when you don’t understand.”
     Nickie looked up at her. She was gazing up at the sky, her eyes shining, paying no attention to the rain falling on her face. “It is?” Nickie said.
     “Yes,” said Mrs. Beeson. “It is.” And with that, she hurried away.

p.253-254 The sky was deep, deep blue, an upside-down ocean of air. Was God up there somewhere, looking down on the whole world at once? Deciding who was good and who wasn’t, figuring out what was normal, planning to sweep everything clean? She wanted to know. She wanted to be sure. But this was one area where her overactive imagination didn’t seem to work. She simply could not figure out how a being in the sky, no matter how vast he was, was everywhere. She didn’t see why God would say one thing to the Prophet of Yonwood and another thing to another prophet halfway across the world. Because clearly not all these people who said that God spoke to them heard the same thing. All the fighting nations said God was on their side. How could God be on everyone’s side?
     Nickie could only think that either there were lots of different Gods all saying different things to different people, or that God didn’t really speak to people at all, or that people thought they were hearing God speak when really they were hearing something else.

p.255-256 She started back down the trail. If no dogs find the food, she thought, maybe squirrels will. Or that white bear. Of if no one finds it, then it can all be for God. Only not for the Prophet’s God, her mean, picky God who dislikes so many things. It’s for my God, the god of dogs and snakes and dust mites and albino bears and Siamese twins, the god of stars and starships and other dimensions, the god who loves everyone and who makes everything marvelous.

p.297-288 All over the world, people who believe in one truth fought against people who believed in a different truth, all of them believing theirs was the only real truth, and all of them willing to do anything--absolutely anything--to defend it. Nations readied and aimed their missiles. They sent their soldiers to take over cities and fight for land, and as the fighting swarmed across deserts and jungles and seas, new diseases broke out, and warring troops and fleeing refugees carried them to one country after another; hundreds of thousands died. Fear ran like a pack of wolves across the planet, and people were afraid for the survival of the human race.