cover image The Meat and Spirit Plan

The Meat and Spirit Plan

Selah Saterstrom, . . Coffee House, $14.95 (225pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-201-8

This dark first-person tale of youthful initiation by Mississippi-born Saterstrom (The Pink Institution ) follows a feisty narrator from public housing in a backward Southern town to the sodden grit of university life in Glasgow. The young, unnamed narrator of these detached vignettes falls into bad company as her drug-addict mother largely disappears and her older sister introduces her to sex and booze. The narrator loses her virginity early on during a drunken bout with a football player and subsequently hangs out with half-Vietnamese friend Heather and her doped-up loser pals. It’s not clear how, but after being sent to reform school, the narrator distinguishes herself in English, which opens the door to college in “Big City,” and later, to Scottish University, where she studies religion, delves into postmodern studies and hooks up with former “heroin freak” Ian. Her mother’s death brings her home just in time for gallstones to send her to the hospital for a long stay. Through banter with night nurse Charlie (who calls her Ginger Rogers), she establishes a connection in the face of rupture and loss. Saterstrom’s coming-of-age narrative is tough and unblinking, and the moments of clarity provide immense satisfaction. (Sept.)