The first time Cole ever heard of rapture children was at the orphanage, where there were three: a boy and two girls. Rapture children had been around before, but since the pandemic there were lots more of them. Rapture children were children who’d been sent by God to be lights in the coming dark. They would be among the first of the living to be caught up to Jesus’ side (right after the holy dead). God had endowed them with special spiritual powers so that they could lead others in the countdown to the Final Battle. Though Pastor Wyatt says there is nothing in the Bible to justify this, his wife Tracy is among those who believe it.

Tracy has a niece named Starlyn who is a rapture child.

The rapture children at the orphanage got so much attention, naturally everyone wanted to be one. Some kids declared themselves raptures and would do almost anything—including lie through their teeth—to prove it. But only grownups could say who was or was not a rapture child.

Cole has heard about rapture children performing heroic deeds and even miracles—the boy at the orphanage was said to have run into a burning house to rescue a baby when he was hardly more than a baby himself—but Cole has never seen anything like that. The older of the two girls said that every night when she knelt to pray Jesus came and stroked her hair. But Cole has learned that seeing Jesus, or at least conversing with him, is not such a rare event.

Some rapture children are unusually gifted. Michaela plays music without having been taught and sings like an angel (there are those who insist rapture children are angels). But though everyone says Cole is gifted, too, no one has ever said he might be a rapture child.

One thing all the rapture children Cole has met have in common is that they are good-looking. Almost every one of them is blond. (Michaela’s hair is so pale it’s more white than yellow; from the back you might even mistake her for an old woman.)

The biggest difference Cole can tell between rapture children and other children is that raptures have a way of making adults happy without even trying. He has seen Starlyn walk into a room and people light up as they do when dessert is set in front of them. He has heard grown men and women pour out their hearts to twelve-year-old Michaela, asking for her advice about grownup things—should they take this new job, should they have another baby—or for her blessing. The same kind of thing that had happened at Here Be Hope. Some of the other orphans were a little afraid of the rapture children because of this power they had with the adults. And Cole is a little afraid of Michaela. The way she always seems to be either laughing or crying. The way, in church, she is able to keep singing out strong even with tears streaming down her face. A girl with almost no meat on her bones and enormous hungry-looking eyes. There would not have been enough hours in the day for her to fill all the requests she got from people to pray for them.

Cole is afraid of Starlyn, too. But that is love (and a secret).
    “Did you used to be one?” Even before he asks Pastor Wyatt this, Cole knows the answer is yes. But Pastor Wyatt gives a loud whoop as if Cole had said something crazy.

“Me? Oh my, no, no, no. I was—my mama would tell you—I was more of a—of a reptile child.” And when Cole looks confused Pastor Wyatt stops laughing and says, “It don’t matter, Cole. It don’t matter what kind of child a person is. Like the song goes, Jesus loves all the little children.” And he opens the Bible to Mark 10:13, to show Cole where it is written.


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SIGRID NUNEZ has published six novels: A Feather on the Breath of God, Naked Sleeper, Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury, For Rouenna, The Last of Her Kind and Salvation City. A memoir about Susan Sontag, Sempre Susan, is forthcoming in spring of 2011. Her work has been in three Pushcart Prize volumes and four anthologies of Asian-American literature, The New York Times, Harper's, McSweeney's, The Believer, The Threepenny Review, Tin House, and O: The Oprah Magazine. She is the recipient of the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writer's Award, a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a residency from the Lannan Foundation. She was the 2000-2001 Rome Prize Fellow in Literature at the American Academy in Rome, and in 2003, she was elected as a Literature Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In spring 2005, she was the Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in New York City.

4 responses to “An Excerpt from Salvation City, by Sigrid Nunez”

  1. BellaTheHappyLoser says:

    So much repetition of the saying “rapture children” it got distracting

    but I think I will like this since it will be a polar opposite of the “The Village of the Damned”

    plus there is a real rapture children going on in the United States with Lou Engle and his IHOP

    international house of prayer where it seems the individuals have sold out to special revelations

    and proclaiming prophecy…reminds you or the ‘Moonies’ of the 70’s and 80’s very cult like from our perspective but from theirs they are in the Spirit.

    • Counts Parsnips with the wolves says:

      Bella.Can I call you Bella? I believe the term “rapture child” is a descriptive term that our author had to use in order to keep us from confusing a “rapture child” with a normal child.
      I love this story,to a fault.And I could find no faults with it at all.
      I enjoy reading.

  2. Marni Grossman says:

    I love love loved “The Last of Her Kind” and am, thus, tickled that I got to read this excerpt. I’m eager to read the book in its entirety.

  3. Lyn LeJeune says:

    let’s see….Children of the Corn – all blond blue-eyed children with paranormal powers…why wait for the rapture(the first and revelation), The World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron—the best yet, something by Maragret Atwood, Stephen King and just about every third book on the bookstore shelves, not to mention most of the new made for tv movies….we’re doomed. I’m eating all the ice cream I want before the electricity is turned off.

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