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Carol Lynch Willams' The Chosen One is a dazzling novel about a young teenager's rebellion from the polygamist cult that would have her become the seventh wife to her 60-year-old uncle
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much---if you don't count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.
But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle---who already has six wives---Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.
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Carol Lynch Williams is the author of young adult novels including Miles from Ordinary. The Chosen One was named one of 2010 ALA's "Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers" and "Best Books for Young Adult Readers." It also won the Whitney and the Association of Mormon Letters awards for the best young adult fiction of the year, as well as numerous other honors. Williams was the winner of the 2009 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. She grew up in Florida and now lives in Utah.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
“If I was going to kill the Prophet,” I say, not even keeping my voice low, “I’d do it in Africa.”
I look into Mariah’s light green eyes.
She stares back at me and smiles, like she knows what I mean and agrees. Like she’s saying, “Go on, Kyra. Tell me more.”
I kick the toe of my sneaker into the desert sand. Even this late in the evening, with the sun sinking over my shoulder, the ground is leftover hot from the day. I can feel the heat through the soles of my shoes. Feel the heat coming up from the ground, through my tights, right under the skirt of my past-the-knees dress. There isn’t even a bit of a breeze.
“I’m not sure how I’d kill him. Yet.” I pause so Mariah can see I am dead serious. Then I take in a big breath of air and plow ahead. “But once he’s gone, I’d drag his body right next to a termite nest. Not a thing would be left of him in three hours. There’re termites in Africa that can do that. No one would ever know what happened.”
Again I pause. I look off toward the setting sun that has changed the desert from orange to deep red. Not quite the color of blood, but close enough. Overhead, stars start to fill the eastern sky. Just bits of light. I shrug.
“All of him would be gone. Every speck. No evidence left.”
Mariah smiles at me again and lets out a bit of baby laughter. I shift her from one hip to the other, then lean close, smelling powder and, from the desert around me, sage. I touch my lips to her face so soft and smooth. Eight months old, this baby, my youngest sister, is as sweet as new butter. And just as fat. I love her.
Oh. I love her.
“I’d kill him first for me,” I say into her cheek, my lips still resting there, my eyes closed. “And then I’d kill him for you. Then I’d kill him for the rest of our sisters. And our mothers. And the other women here...”
Mother Claire’s voice carries out over the sand and rock and brush that make up this part of our land surrounding the Compound. The sound is so clear and sharp and near, I worry maybe she’s heard me.
“Kyra,” Mother Claire calls again. She stands on the porch to her trailer, the light of her place spilling out around her. Her hands are on her hips. “I see you out there. Come inside. You know we have company coming in a few minutes. Get in here now.”
“Coming,” I say, but not loud at all.
Mother Claire is the mean one. She’s Mariah’s mother, my father’s first wife. My true mother, Mother Sarah, is sick in bed with pregnancy. She would stand up to this wife, at least for me. She has before. But she can’t right now because she’s not well.
Mariah lets out a gurgle. In the lingering light I can see that she’s sleepy. Sleepy from my swaying and the heat and my voice, maybe. She puts her head on my shoulder and lets out a big yawn.
“Lucky girl,” I say. “You might sleep through this to night.”
AFTER I HELP Mother Sarah get the younger girls ready for our visitors, I check on her. She’s stretched out on the sofa, her face white, her belly six- months big.
“Mother,” I say. I pet her long blond hair. “Can I go outside? Just a few minutes? Everything’s done.”
What I’d like to do is play the piano, bring Mozart to life for the time we have until Prophet Childs shows. But the Fellowship Hall is closed now.
Mother looks at me with eyes blue as the evening sky. “What are you going to do, Kyra?” she says.
I shrug. “Just spend a minute alone.”
Mother Sarah moves up on her elbow, cocks her head like she’s listening. In their room I can hear my youngest two sisters playing with their baby dolls. Laura, who is just a year younger than me, writes at the dining- room table. She’s filling her journal.
“We have nearly an hour before the Prophet comes by,” Laura says. “Not that I was listening to your private conversation.” Laura grins at me. Our trailer is so small we can hear one another’s thoughts.
“I’ll be back when you call,” I say, and my mother nods, then sinks onto the sofa and closes her eyes.
I MAKE MY WAY out to the Russian Olive trees that line the back of the Compound.
We’re lucky. Our trailer is closest to these trees and I love them. I love the way they smell sweet in the spring, and I love the silverish- green color of their leaves. I love that, in summer, the leaves are thick and can hide me. I love that I can be alone here. I’ve cut off the pokey thorns from all the lower branches on one tree.
When I did that, Mother said, “Kyra Leigh Carlson! Why in the world did you use my best Cutco knives to trim a tree? You’re old enough to know better than that.”
“Healthier than getting stabbed,” I had said. And she clucked her tongue like a hen in the chicken coop.
What I couldn’t say was, “I needed a place to breathe by myself, that’s why I did it.” I couldn’t say, “Mother, I am almost fourteen and I haven’t had one minute alone except when I’m sitting on the toilet and even then Carolina tries to get in with me and I have to hold the door shut with my foot ‘cause the lock’s been broken I don’t know how long.” I couldn’t say, “Some days I need to be alone.” Instead, I just shrugged.
I climb up into the leaves now and settle onto my highest branch. My dress tugs at my knees till I loosen it some.
“Thank you, Jesus,” I say. And I mean those words, I do.
This visit from the Prophet has excited the family. Everyone is thrilled he’s coming.
“No one’s mixed up,” I say. “No one but me.”
There’s not a mother or child in my family that doesn’t honor the Prophet.
“I do, too,” I say. “Sometimes.”
But life is changing for me. I’m learning new things. I’m “getting out,” I say into the eve ning air. I’m sure I’m the only Chosen One who has wished the Prophet dead and his body picked away by termites.
I look past the crisscrossy branches of the Rus sian Olive toward our settlement. I can see most everything here, if I part the leaves. The lawns of the Prophet and Apostles, the store, the Temple and the Fellowship Hall where we meet for school and Wednesday eve ning activities. I see it all. And nobody can see me.
“Mmm,” I say, breathing deep and closing my eyes. It smells so good to be by myself here.
After a moment of resting, I open my eyes and look toward my own home, seeing some of it in my head ‘cause it’s too dark to make out all the details: the sparse grass and red desert dirt; the shadows of my two youngest sisters in their bedroom window. From where I sit I can see the three of Father’s trailers where all my mothers live. Some nights when I sit here I can pick Father out just from his shape in front of a curtain and I know who he’s staying with for that week.
This spot in this tree is mine alone. I’ve very nearly rubbed a bo
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Book Description St. Martin's Griffin, 2009. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0312555113
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