Flutie Moses, oppressed by her own silence, has words and images she wants to, but cannot, articulate, not even to provide directions for passing motorists. Her small world is dominated by Hampton’s Garage. There her father and brother repair the town’s broken and worn-out vehicles, and her father—a Native American whose siblings simply walked away and disappeared, and whose heritage is all but lost—attempts to reclaim something about his personal past by rebuilding an old car like the one he owned in his youth. Flutie’s mother careens over the highways of western Oklahoma, collecting traffic tickets, in her pursuit of distance and speed. “As she drove she rushed away from the past so it wouldn’t catch up with her.”
Anger consumes Flutie’s brother Franklin. Six years Flutie’s senior, Franklin defiantly refuses to finish high school. He and his leather-clad friends spend their time stealing hood ornaments from cars passing through their small town, fixing old cars, traveling the countryside to salvage yards and car shows, seeking salvation through custom cars. Flutie observes, “Cars were the angels of America. They were full of invisible wings. Chevys. Fords. Plymouths. Buicks. Studebakers. Restored. Rebuilt. Customized. Polished. Worshipped.”
Ruther and Luther Rutherford, the old sister and brother who live down the road from Flutie’s family, are the only people to whom Flutie can speak freely. Their family claimed Indian land at the turn of the century and stuck it out during the 1930’s Dust Bowl. As the two of them wait for their end, with their “Do Not Resuscitate” sign boldly placed above their front door, Ruther hears angels and has visions of the racks of heaven that she imagines to be just like the dark inside of an oven until her prayers turn on the light to reveal the angels and all those who have gone before her. She also feeds bread crumbs to the thousands of buffalo she believes roam the Oklahoma plains; she thinks they would visit her backyard if only her brother would stop his incessant mowing of their dry, dusty yard.
Jess Tessman, Flutie’s friend and confidant, lives at the end of a long dirt road with his father on a small, dismal farm. He is a lonely boy whose mother disappeared long ago, leading him to believe that no one who leaves ever returns. He loves Flutie and wants her to marry him and stay in Vini forever.
Swallow Smots, Flutie’s best friend, is everything Flutie is not—pretty, flirtatious, and talkative. A waitress at the only restaurant in town, she attracts Franklin’s attention as his first marriage fails and becomes his second wife. Once the girl who bails hay in a bikini, she is eventually subdued by the insularity of small town life and by marriage.
The first epigraph of Diane Glancy’s novel Flutie reads: “There’s the sky and the ground with / nothing between them but a landscape / of stories you can hear if you hold / your ear to the air to the land—.” That statement, along with the enticing iconic portrait on the book’s cover of a saint-like Indian woman, draw us into the world of young Flutie Moses, the novel’s confused and lonely protagonist. She dwells in a landscape of not only vast plains of inescapable dust and desolation, but also ancient, eternal geological and cosmological forces, which are available to those able to perceive them. The novel is an engaging—and often depressing—account of Flutie Moses’s gradual awakening to this landscape of stories that have the potential to save her.
Flutie is a tale of silence and words, of staying and going, of the immediate place and moment, and eternal space and time. In eighty-seven short chapters, some only a few paragraphs long, as well as in the typographical and imaginative spaces between the chapters the author provides, Glancy presents the moments and events that transform Flutie from a pathologically silent girl to a young woman who finds her voice and in the process recognizes her role as a storyteller.
The girl we meet at the beginning of the novel is trapped in three ways. First, she is imprisoned by the tiny town of Vini, forty miles from the Texas border and a short distance from the Great Salt Plains, both of which might as...
(The entire section is 1748 words.)