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Everybody Knew ... Nobody Knew
The Secret That Could Have No Name

It started in church. She should have been listening to the minister. Instead, a precocious fifth-grade schoolgirl saw something that morning, something curious.

Julie Spencer decided she had detected a relationship between prominence and churchgoing. She decided to confirm her suspicions by talking to people and then, if she were sure enough of her findings, present them in a school theme.

Eventually, word of her ‘research’ and her theme leaked. Many in town considered her ideas divisive. It appeared her investigation had revealed the community’s ‘secret that could have no name.’

As the financial interests of powerful people rested on the town’s façade of concord, they threatened to punish the girl, her teacher, and her parents in various ways.

Enter a whistleblower and a reporter ...

profile of girl whispering - cover
Ottawa, Illinois, Congregatonal Church

FROM THE BOOK: She’d figured it out by the fifth grade. Stuff about her town an insightful fifth-grader might possibly figure out if they were curious. At first, she tried not to think of it, that which had such power. She’d made no scientific attempt to know its truth. But there it was. She’d seen it, and it wasn’t going away.

     It began to eat at her one Monday afternoon as she walked home from school. Her active mind, ready to put school behind, wandered to the day before.

     She was supposed to be praying, and singing, and listening to Dr. Claude Mason’s sermon ... all of it. Instead, out of boredom and with no purpose in mind, she began to look at the people who occupied the pews, study them, the people of the First Congregational.

     One or two were real doctors, not doctors of divinity who seemed always to drone on and on; lawyers—even worse droners; downtown businessmen; or management people where her father worked. Strange, though: few if any of her friends’ parents were there. Surely, they went to church, didn’t they? Didn’t everyone? But where? And why wherever but not to her church? Interesting questions.

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