And Yet Beauty Lives

Celeste did not meet the American God until she’d been at the Hensleys nearly a week, although the Hensleys talked about Him so frequently and with such fawning familiarity that Celeste often wondered if He had entered the room while she’d been busy changing her daughter Babiana’s diaper or tending to the strict progression of dishes moving around the dinner table. Unlike Celeste’s own God, Nhialic, who split up the chores of being God with others, the American God was solitary and preferred to live alone inside one of five imposing structures set like sentinels around town. He attended to everyone. He loved All, although Celeste could tell the Hensleys, particularly Marilyn, believed His heart swelled most when He was with the Foursquare Gathering Place. The American God, it appeared, approved most of the energy and powerful speaking voice of Reverend Gary Slypper, and the church he had built from a vision, a church that was so big it reminded Celeste of a tiny city or the camp. She was sure people lived there in those vast aisles, and she mentioned as much to Tara Hensley, who’d been charged with giving her a tour on the Sunday she was to be introduced to the American God.

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