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The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker
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The Temple of My Familiar (original 1989; edition 2004)

by Alice Walker

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1,686134,238 (3.76)27
Member:karima29
Title:The Temple of My Familiar
Authors:Alice Walker
Info:Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) (2004), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker (1989)

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African-American writer, Alice Walker’s website provides a brief biography. It reads, in part, “Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated author, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. She’s best known for The Color Purple, the 1983 novel for which she won the Pulitzer Prize—the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction—and the National Book Award. (http://alicewalkersgarden.com/about-2/).

I read some of Walker’s works in a women writer’s class in grad school, and I found The Color Purple extremely moving. The persistence and courage of Celie inspired me in a number of ways. The Temple of My Familiar came my way at the urging of a close friend. What I found was something quite different from Purple.

Rather than read this novel, it needs to be experienced. Yes, the story is convoluted, with an amazing array of characters and time periods, with love and hate, fear and courage, but at the end, characters who possessed the same persistence Walker gave us in The Color Purple. A map of the family and its shifting relationships would most definitely assist a reader.

One interesting character, Fanny, married to an African man, Suwelo, has visions of historical characters. Suwelo is a history teacher, and he is skeptical that spirits actually contact Fanny. He researches one, Chief John Horse, and finds Fanny has described his life in meticulous detail. Suwelo once asked her about the spirits. “What do you love about these people?” (186). Fanny replies,

“I dunno. They open doors inside me. It’s as if they’re keys. To rooms inside myself. I find a door inside and it’s as if I hear a humming from behind it, and then I get inside somehow, with the key the old ones give me, (…) and as I stumble about in the darkness of the room, I begin to feel the stirring in myself, the humming in the room, and my heart starts to expand with the absolute feeling of bravery, or love, or audacity, or commitment. It becomes a light, and the light enters me, by osmosis, and a part of me that was not clear before is clarified. I radiate this expanded light. Happiness. / And that, Suwelo knew, was called ‘being in love’” (186).

Another character, Lissie, remembers in great detail all of her past lives – from a childhood in Africa, to one during the middle passage, through to one as slavery ended and another during the civil rights movement of the 60s.

Some novels require a great deal of patience and close reading. Not all are worth that extra effort, but Alice Walker’s Temple of my Familiar most certainly is. The only flaw involved rapid shifts of time and place, which I found confusing. Despite this, I did not invoke my rule of 50, and my persistence paid off. One chapter explains the life of Lissie, and it all fell into place. 5 stars

--Jim, 8/11/13 ( )
  rmckeown | Sep 1, 2013 |
This is a strange, amazing, mythical-proportioned multi-threaded tale. You may need a map to navigate it, and the ending is rather anti-climactic (ahem) but some of the pieces of it are just amazing. Also, it's like a sequel to "Color Purple," in a way. ( )
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
I just have to accept I don't like what Alice Walker writes about or how she writes. I found this book hard going, disjointed and rambling. I couldn't actually finish it and I'm usually more perseverant than that. ( )
  qofd | Jul 23, 2012 |
Not quite as accessible as The Color Purple, but more sprawling and, by necessity, more finely wrought. This is a big book--lots of characters, with a multi-generational timeline. To complicate things further, a great deal of the book is told in epistolary fashion or in long monologues by one of the many characters. Not an easy book to read, but quite good. ( )
  TheBentley | May 24, 2011 |
This book was given to me by my sister, bless her heart, many years ago. Its heart is in the right place, but it comes across as a little preachy.

Quotes:
"What a euphemism, 'leather'. A real nonword. Nowhere in it was concealed the truth of what leather was. Something's skin. And his tortoiseshell glasses. He took them off and peered nearsightedly at them, holding them at arm's length. But they were imitation tortoiseshell. Plastic, probably. But this made him even gloomier, for he knew the only reason for imitation anything was that the source of the real thing had dried up. There were probably no more tortoises to kill. And what, anyway, of plastic? It was plentiful, cheap. But even it came from somewhere. Of what was plastic made? What died?"

"HELPED are those who love and actively support the diversity of life; they shall be secure in their differentness."

"You must try not to want 'things' too,' said Ola, 'for 'thingism' is the ultimate block across the path of peace. If everytime you see a tree, you want to make some thing out of it, soon no one on earth will even have air to breathe." ( )
1 vote gbill | Dec 29, 2009 |
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Three couples, two in crisis, talk about themselves and reconstruct the missing pieces of the past and in the end, they deeply affect one another. Transcending the conventions of time and place, Walker's novel moves from contemporary America, England, and Africa to unfamiliar primal worlds, where women, men, and animals socialize in surprising ways. The author of The Color Purple has created a mesmerizing novel of vision and spirit.… (more)

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