A scrappy kid with a violent stutter, novelist Steinke (Milk; Suicide Blonde) is the oldest child of an aloof Lutheran minister and a clinically depressed former Miss Albany. The household is steeped in the word of God; Steinke grows up brewing her own communion wine, baptizing the neighborhood cats and craving, even at age six, spiritual transcendence. It’s a wish that never leaves her, and she’s tireless in her pursuit of this elusive state of oneness, first seeking it in a sexually obsessive relationship with a man who turns out to be gay, and then in her doomed marriage. Her writing on these topics is blunt and powerful. When her husband confides that a teenage girl of their acquaintance has been e-mailing him, Steinke doesn’t pull her punches. “Michael believed that getting close to young girls and hearing about their love life was so exciting that anyone, even his own wife, would understand the Masonic pull.” When it comes to her personal relationship with God—the real meat of the book—Steinke is relatively brief, almost distant: “The idea of church still has a grip on my imagination, but I realize now that what I thought was held only inside those walls—grace and divinity—is actually located directly and authentically inside myself.” Steinke is a gifted writer, and this only leaves readers wanting more.