The Prophet of Yonwood
by Jeanne DuPrau
This Third Book of Ember is actually a prequel to The City of Ember
and The People of Sparks
. It reaches back before the cataclysm that nearly wiped out mankind and led to the founding of the underground city of Ember back to a time like ours, when a showdown between a fanatical enemy and a heavily-armed U.S. government leads many to fear for the worlds future.
In this tense atmosphere, 11-year-old Nickie and her aunt come to the small town of Yonwood, North Carolina, to settle the estate of Nickies late great-grandfather. Aunt Crystal wants to sell the big old house called Greenhaven and everything in it, and split the cash with Nickies mother. Nickie has other plans: 1. Keep Greenhaven (so she and her parents can live there), 2. Fall in love (so she knows what it feels like), and 3. Do something to help the world.
She doesnt seem to have much luck with the first two items. Aunt Crystal spends more and more time with the realtor who is helping them sell Greenhaven. The only prospective boyfriends are a stuck-up prig named Martin and a nicer boy named Grover who, unfortunately, is crazy about snakes. As for doing something good, Nickie is encouraged (at first) by the efforts of a lady named Brenda Beeson, who has gathered a huge local following by interpreting the visions of a local prophet a woman named Althea Tower, who has been stricken by a mindblowing vision of fire and destruction.
Mrs. Beeson takes care of the prophet, listening to her mutterings and trying to understand what they mean. Based on such phrases as no singing, Mrs. Beeson tries to lead a crusade of goodness to push back the evil in the world and, perhaps, save it from utter annihilation. She and her followers patrol the neighborhood, identifying people who are not living up to their standards of goodness, and punishing those who refuse to be corrected. One of those who are punished is Grover, because he refuses to get rid of his snakes. Poor Nickie is so confused about what is good and what is bad, who is right and who is wrong. She doesnt know how to help the world. But when the prophets latest revelation convinces Mrs. Beeson that everyone has to get rid of their dogs including Nickies beloved puppy Otis on the rationale that we should not divide our love of God with love of mans best friend things suddenly become clear. Frantic, heartbroken, Nickie loses her head and does the very thing that Yonwood really needs.
Like the other two books of Ember, this is a thought-provoking story about moral priorities, the self-defeating nature of moralism, the danger that fundamentalism may lead to evil rather than good, and the mistakes people can make in a time of suffocating tension even when they think they are guided by divine revelation. I suppose some people may choose to read it as an anti-Christian book, but I do not. It doesnt take a very sophisticated theologian to recognize the twistedness of Mrs. Beesons idea that God wants us to love Him to the exclusion of all else. Playing telephone with divine prophecy is as dangerous as playing chicken with weapons of mass destruction and one confused, lonely girl who misses her father and loves her dog, learns these lessons the hard way. Perhaps, if we are sufficiently moved by the lyricism of this book, we will be a faster study.
Recommended Age: 12+
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