Prolific Native American novelist and essayist Glancy (The West Pole, 1997) returns to territory she first explored in the short novel The Only Piece of Furniture in the House (1996), probing the spiritual resources and yearnings of apparently nondescript figures. Flutie, her heroine, is 13 when we first meet her, living in a hard, grim little Oklahoma town, held at arm’s length by a ferociously unhappy mother, and yearning for support, which is not forthcoming, from her taciturn father. He’s a Cherokee, long cut off from his people—the only tie he maintains to that past is a sweatlodge behind the house, to which he periodically retreats. Flutie has more than the usual set of adolescent problems: Following a childhood accident, and her grisly mistreatment by a doctor, she finds it difficult to say more than a few halting words. Ignored by her schoolmates and by her family, tormented by visions of supernatural messengers, and without any sort of religious framework to explain her experiences, she repeatedly sinks into lethargic dismay. Glancy demonstrates a strong and very particular gift for catching the way in which spiritual yearnings work on an untutored mind. The narrative follows Flutie through adolescence and on to college. Along the way, she experiments disastrously with drugs and alcohol, learns, painfully, to begin to distance herself from her self-destructive family, and even discovers a calling. More importantly, buoyed by her visions of the natural world and the mysterious spirituality woven into it, she begins, haltingly, to speak. Readers may find Glancy’s terse descriptions of Flutie’s dysfunctional family repetitive and unenlightening. And her slow, subtle excavation of Flutie’s consciousness (which is particularly fragmented in the early scenes) may prove tedious for some. Still, there’s real power and originality in Glancy’s stubborn focus on seemingly impoverished lives. Her insistence on the saving presence of spirituality in even badly damaged characters is moving and, ultimately, convincing.