The same night I was saved in the Pentecostal church, my mother became an atheist.

“What drove you to that?” I asked her.

“George, my love,” she said, her voice steady and clear, her fingers fiddling with the handle of her coffee mug, “I don’t understand what God and his people are up to any more. Before your father left—what is it, fifteen years ago now?—before that we were all going to church, and all the church people, family and friends, well, they all encouraged us and loved us and wished us all the best in our lives, and helped us along. I remember that time after the flood—two or three feet of stinky water in our basement—and they gave us money for the renovation when that damn insurance company said it wasn’t covered and—George, it’s just that since your father left, they all kind of just turned away. Sally even told me that him leaving must be my fault in some way, and then they were all saying that I should accept what happened and spend the rest of my days with no man in my life but with God in my heart.”

She sipped her coffee, which I had made for her, and told me for the thousandth time that it always tastes better when someone else has made it.

“What drove you to salvation?” she asked.