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Little Altars Everywhere Paperback – May 22, 1996

3.9 out of 5 stars 287 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Ya-Ya Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"It can wear you to a nub, trying to be a popular person and a good Catholic all at the same time." So says Sidda, one of the characters inhabiting Little Altars Everywhere. Author Rebecca Wells uses her considerable acting talent to perform this abridgment, adding even more spark to her already lively characters. Everyone--Shep, Vivi, Willetta, and the rest--is given a distinct voice, and Wells plays each of them to the hilt. More like a recording of a one-woman show than a mere reading, Altars is an excellent example of how entertaining audiobooks can be. (Running time: 3 hours, 2 cassettes) --C.B. Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The lineage of Wells's first novel can be traced directly to the "adult children" literature that has gained popularity in recent years. "I have one main rule for myself these days: Don't hit the baby. It means: Don't hurt the baby that is me. Don't beat up on the little one who I'm learning to hold and comfort . . . ," Siddalee says in the book's final chapter. Her voice, like those of the lesser narrators (sister, two brothers, parents, grandmother, blacks who work for the family), sounds increasingly contrived as the book progresses. The structure doesn't help matters, allocating one or two chapters to most characters--in Part I showing Siddalee and her siblings as children in Louisiana in the 1960s, in Part II the same characters 30 years later. Attempts at black dialect or small-town Louisiana slang are also superficial. The entire book consists of retellings, with little room (or incentive) for readers to share the action. There are some wonderful sections, such as when the grandmother's lap dog has a "hysterectomy," then learns to put dolls to bed as if they were her children, but such moments cannot sustain the reader's interest through more than 200 pages.
Copyright 1992 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: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060976845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976842
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,942,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Richer, darker and deeper than the second book or the movie, this book truly is a 'must' read if you want to understand the Walker family, especially the mystery who is Viviane Abbot Walker.
Starting as a simple short story ("Looking for My Mules," with Shep, Viviane and an old man lost on their farm), Rebecca Wells' tales of growing up in Louisiana in a less than perfect home grew first into Little Altars Everywhere, then into the Divine Secrets book and movie. Each chapter contains a well crafted short story, told from the viewpoint of different characters. Each chapter offers a title with the name of the narrator and year they are talking in. In some cases, the titles are enough to draw you in (Catfish Dreams; E-Z Boy War; The Princess of Gimmee.)
From the 60's to the 90's, each story offers a simple, but meaningful slice of the entire Walker family's story. Some are told in the present, some are memories of what happened long ago. The chapters weave together to give you a wider view of what was going on from different perspectives.
As you read, you'll find yourself piecing together the story of Sidalee, her siblings, her mother Vivi and father Shep, as well as Willetta and Chaney, the black couple who were hired help, and who have an outside view of the family.
Don't stop reading with this book, or you'll miss a view of the whole person -- doting mother, child abuser, unloved child, shattered schoolgirl, broken hearted, passionate lover, distant wife and mother as well as a view of Shep as a fallible human being and how he contributed to Vivi's 'condition' and the affect it had on their children.
A treasure of a book, you may find it more unsettling than the movie or the second book. Excellent writing, it will leave you wanting to know more (unless you've already read the second book!)
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Format: Paperback
I wish that I had read this before its sequel, "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." With the background on the life of Siddalee Walker and her siblings offered in this fecund tapestry of family dysfunction, I have a much better understanding of Sidda's "whining."
This is a disturbing tale of a prominent family in small-town Louisiana and the hidden rot at its core. Viviane Abbott Walker is a self-centered, immature woman who would have done better to collect dolls than have living, breathing children to annihilate. The best answer the narcissistic Vivi can come up with to the everyday problems of life is to drown them in alcohol. Under its influence, she systematically physically abuses and emotionally batters her children, indelibly damaging them for life. Her weak husband's solution to the domestic battlefield is to flee to his hunting camp for days on end and drink himself into oblivion. This bittersweet novel was excruciatingly painful to read, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
There were divinely funny moments interspersed with heartbreaking passages that make one so angry you forget that this is fiction. I suspect that many of us can identify with key issues of this profoundly touching novel. I know I did. This is one of those rare jewels whose lessons to live by can change your life.
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Format: Paperback
I read "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" a couple of years ago and fell in love with it. When I found out there was a book that came before of the same characters I had to read it. The book was good and a must-read for anyone that reads the Ya-Ya's. BUT be prepared. It's definitely a more disturbing picture of Vivi. While we get a better look into Big Shep's head (Sidda's father) and learn that his compassion runs deeper than Vivi's but he just either doesn't know how to show it or feels there'd be no point to it anyway. Vivi's dark side is much more than I'd suspected having read the second book first. Her alcoholism is plain as day in Altars whereas in the Ya-Ya's she just seems to be a social drinker. (Same goes for Big Shep) And you can see more clearly the emotional scars all of her children carry and how they truly feel about their mother. This book left behind some disturbing images in my head and I wish that I had been left with the ones I garnered from reading the Ya-Ya's. One's where Vivi's motherhood crimes did not seem so vicious and contemptable.
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By A Customer on August 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
As a guy, I was fully prepared to dislike what I thought was an emotional chick book written by an egotistical wannabe actress. After all, I panned that fatuous bimbo Candace Bushnell in my review of "Four Blondes." I even gave One Star to Macho Super Author Robert Ludlum, although I felt badly when the big guy died just after my review was posted. This is all my way of saying that I don't throw around these Amazon Five Stars lightly
Well, let me tell you, "Little Altars Everywhere" is outstanding. Author Rebecca Wells gives gripping and believable voices to each of the six members of the dysfunctional Walker clan and to their black employees (read "slaves"), Chaney and Willetta Lloyd. Each of the 17 chapters is told first hand by one of these eight characters. The first half of the interconnected vignettes are set in the 1960s; the rest in the early 1990s.
As an actor/playwright, Wells is well versed at stepping inside her characters and in getting each person's dialect and emotions just right, even across the book's 30 year span. Southern speech is mimicked perfectly without being overbearing or hard to understand, and the emotional descriptions and scenes are touching and effective without being maudlin. Just when I think Wells is about to go too far with one of her characters or scenes, she stops with exquisite timing. It's almost as if Rebecca Wells has multiple personalities herself.
Wells writes about what she knows and describes her native Louisiana in convincing style. We're oppressed by the heat of the low country; we hear mosquitoes buzzing, radios blaring and air conditioners whirring; we see big old cars and pickup trucks speeding along dusty roads. We smell the good earth and the crops.
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