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The Temple of My Familiar Paperback – Bargain Price, September 3, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part love story, part fable, part feminist manifesto, part political statement, Walker's new novel follows a cast of interrelated characters, most of them black, and each representing a different ethnic strain--ranging from diverse African tribes to the mixed bloods of Latin America--that contribute to the black experience in America. As each tells of his or her life (and sometimes, previous lives in various reincarnations), Walker relates the damage inflicted on blacks by the oppression of slavery in Africa and in the South, and less visibly but just as invidiously, by the racial prejudice existing today. Because her characters are intrinsically interesting, (one is the granddaughter of Celie from The Color Purple ) this device works most of the time. But when Walker hypothesizes that Western civilization stole and subverted the ancient African deities, metamorphosing their worship of the Mother Goddess into a patriarchal line, the narrative takes on the strident tones of a polemic. Black women have suffered most, is Walker's message, since they were subjugated both by whites and by men. Unfortunately, didacticism mars the narrative; theorizing and pontificating take the place of action. Thus, though it has its own strengths, the book never achieves the narrative power of The Color Purple . 175,000 copy first printing; major ad/promo; BOMC featured alternate; paperback sale to Pocket Books, author tour.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Nothing in Walker's extraordinary new novel is fixed. Time and place range from precolonial Africa to post-slavery North Carolina to modern-day San Francisco; and the characters themselves change and evolve as their stories are told, their myriad histories revealed. Most often present are Miss Lissie, an old woman with a fascinating host of former lives; her companion, the gentle Mr. Hal; Arveyda, a soul-searching musician; his wife Carlotta, who was born in the South American jungle; Fanny, a young woman who has a tendency to fall in love with spirits; and her husband Suwelo, who tries hard but simply does not understand her. Out of the telling of their stories emerges a glorious and iridescent fabric, a strand connecting all their lives and former lives and seeming to pull all of existence into its folds. Walker's characters are magnetic, even with their all-to-human flaws and stumblings; they seem to contain the world, and to do it justice. Highly recommended.
- Jessica Grim,
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547480008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547480008
  • ASIN: B0058M8H3M
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I purchased my version of Temple of My Familiar when I was working in Frankfurt, Germany. I didn't speak the language and stumbled across a kiosk in the center of the city that sold a few books in English and this was one of them. Not having read any Walker before, but knowing her reputation as a wonderful writer, I purchased the book and devoured it in one sitting. At first hungry for English, I realized I was savoring a masterpiece. Walker deftly intertwines the lives (and past lives) of numerous characters from the US, England, and Africa and gives incredible perspectives of many different perspectives of the native/colonial African experience as well as the experience of men and women in the racially divided US. I ended up rereading the book numerous times while in Europe and I periodically find myself rereading it every few months. Each character is on a personal journey to find themselves and honesty and caring for others is a key component to their discovery. A great message and a skillfully written book.
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Format: Paperback
I too was surprised by the other customer reviews and I feel the need to defend this extraordinary book that touched my life as no other before it has. There are many underlying messages in this novel that may remain unseen by one who reads what is merely on the surface. The imperfection of human emotion, the inexplicable forces of attraction, and the chains of one's past are all important issues that Ms. Walker delves into with style and grace. Yet at no time did I feel I was receiving too much information. On the contrary, I couldn't put the book down because I was so thirsty for more. The everyday, and not-so-everyday struggles of these amazing characters made these stories so touching and real that I found myself talking about them as if they were familiar friends. I feel that one of the most important issue that Ms. Walker deals with in this novel is the very true and very devastating change from the worship of the goddess to the god. She explains this transformation in such a way that any woman - or man for that matter - can understand and feel this pain as they should, for it affects all of our lives - now and forever. For those of you who have not read this book, please do so with an open heart and mind and I promise that you will receive the message that is meant for you. For those of you who have read it and did not understand it, I urge you to read again and again. You will see things that you never knew were there: in the book as well as inside yourself.
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Format: Paperback
I read this for the first time in 1990. I was 13 the first time I read this book. At the time, the story was so complex, so moving to me in some way. Particularly Ms Lizzie's character. Someone who'd lived so many different lives, through so many different times struck a chord with me. I've read this book at least once every year since that first time. I've gone through three paperbacks and finally when I became an adult, got myself a beautiful first edition which I cherish. As I've gotten older, I've related to each character differently of course, come to understand them better in some ways, sometimes made some of the same mistakes they've made. Ms. Walker is an excellent writer, I've read all of her books but this one, for me is a masterpiece. Whenever some traumatic thing has happened in my life, I reach for this book. I've done papers, character analysis, paintings all based off of this work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Color Purple: It is a good book that i found to be very informative. I suggest this book to anyone seeking an understanding of Incest and all of its ramifications. Bravo, Alice Walker. Keep up the good work.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found myself hooked on this novel after the first sentence, and it has given me one of my more magical reading experiences. The Temple of My Familiar is part history, part myth, part love story, part everything. Walker's prose is absolutely rapturous.

But, as concisely as possible, I would like to try to address some of the issues that have been raised in other reviews. As close as I've grown to this book over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I've been put in the position of defending a friend.

First of all, I did not find the novel hard to follow. Yes, there is a certain Chekhovian decentralization, and we are never given a specific protagonist, but each storyline is completely engaging in its own way. And the tiny ways in which these characters' lives intersected over the course of the novel never failed to bring a smile to my face. The psuedo cameos from characters in The Color Purple were a delightful connection. (Note for those readers of The Color Purple who are not aware: this novel, in large part, follows the story of Celie's granddaughter.)

It's an Alice Walker novel so, yes, it has political forays -- some bizarre, others poignant. But I do not understand the fear of the things that Alice Walker writes. History is dark, and it deserves to be studied, even if our own sensibilities are offended. Her word is not law, it's simply her word. Her philosophy. Her story. Sensitivity to her touchy subject matter should not distract from the beauty of her prose and storytelling.

I will confess one problem with the book (and it is the only reason I docked it one star): Walker is not capable of separating her own voice from those of her characters.
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