Lauren starts us off by saying she no longer believes in her father's God—but she's too cowardly to resist being initiated into his Baptist church.
People from Lauren's neighborhood, led by her father, get up early in the morning to go across their town of Robledo to a church with a real baptistery. That's where Lauren, her brothers Keith and Marcus, and four other kids will be baptized as a group to save money on clean water. Water is an expensive thing in this novel.
Lauren describes her brother Keith as dumb, but she says he's her stepmother's favorite. He dodges his responsibilities and wants to move to Los Angeles. Don't we all.
Getting to the church requires riding bikes as a group for safety. All the adults are armed.
The group rides out beyond the protective neighborhood walls and past poor homeless people and dead bodies. Many of the homeless are dangerous and carry untreated diseases.
Lauren explains that seeing the suffering of the poor outside the neighborhood walls triggers a condition she has: hyperempathy syndrome.
Lauren's syndrome makes her share the pain or pleasure of other people she observes.
Lauren calls this sharing delusional. Before her first period, she'd even start bleeding if she saw someone else bleeding.
Thankfully, that part of the syndrome has worn off by now.
Lauren says she has the syndrome as a result of her mother's abuse of the drug Paracetco during pregnancy.
Lauren's family keeps her syndrome a secret. She doesn't want people to know how easy it is to hurt her. Aww.
The baptism goes as planned.
Lauren muses about God. She says a lot of people believe in God as a kind of big cop who punishes people. Others believe in God as a force, or as nature.
Lauren thinks God is something else, something different from all these conceptions.
Lauren also ponders a recent storm in the Gulf region. It killed more than 700 people, and she wonders if the people affected by the storm still have faith after all the destruction.