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Little Altars Everywhere: A Novel by Rebecca…
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Little Altars Everywhere: A Novel (original 1992; edition 2005)

by Rebecca Wells

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3,112421,813 (3.39)35
Member:sandykaypax
Title:Little Altars Everywhere: A Novel
Authors:Rebecca Wells
Info:Harper Paperbacks (2005), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:**
Tags:chick lit, Southern

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Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (1992)

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I've just finished Little Altars Everywhere and it wasn't at all the book I thought it was. I picked it up thinking it was a pink and fluffy book - probably because my impressions of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood are of a light film with Sandra Bullock dancing around a room. Knowing this was a prequel to "Divine Secrets I assumed, when I picked it up it was a light-hearted read as well.

It's not at all an easy read. This book is essentially about the lives of a family - mum and dad, Vivianne and "Big Shep" Walker", and their four children, Siddalee, Little Shep, Lulu and Baylor - living in the deep south in the USA. The parents are both alcoholics and mistreat the children in a terrible manner. The parents' misbehaviour has a huge impact on all four children, driving them to obsessive behaviour to cope with their treatment.

The first half of the book is quite light-hearted and the reader is lulled into thinking the behaviour of the parents is explainable. However the second half of the book is much darker and more disturbing, and much more upsetting. It touches on sexual abuse, alcoholism, obsessive compulsive disorder, religious obsession and more.

The book is written from all six Walker family members' perspectives, plus those of their "hired help", Chaney and Willetta, who live a short distance away. Wells as an author is very skilled at lending very distinct voices to each of the different narrators which really helps this book flow. ( )
  AlexisLovesBooks | Apr 6, 2016 |
I started this book knowing that it was the first one in the series of the Ya-Ya's. I had read the Devine Secrets a couple of years ago and wanted to start from the beginning, something I'm doing with all of the series' that I have started somewhere in the middle. I loved the Devine Secrets, more than the movie but still just as good.

This book goes into not just the life of Siddalee Walker but rather the lives of all of the family member, Vivi, Shep, Little Shep, Lulu, and Baylor as well as the Letta and Chaney, the two people in their lives that were there for them when their parents weren't. If anyone has read the Devine Secrets, they know what kind of life the children were put through. However, I liked seeing it from the point of view of Shep and Vivi too. See how they reacted to the things that happened as well as how it affected their relationship as well.

Overall, I'm glad that I read this one second, and not first originally. I think that it gives a great back story to the characters as well as sets up the scene and makes things enjoyable for reading. I thought it was a well written piece and actually want to re-read Devine Secrets as well as read Ya-Ya's in Bloom. ( )
  welkeral | Mar 20, 2016 |
Rebecca Wells presents her novel in a series of vignettes, each told in first person by a member of the Walker family or one of the family's employees. The technique works well here, allowing the author to utilize to advantage both the immediacy of the short story and to offer the reader the slow revelations and depth that can be revealed through the length of a good novel.

The Walker family lives on a plantation in Louisiana. The primary character of the book, and the one we first are introduced to, is Siddalee Walker, who when we first meet her in 1991 is grown up and dreaming of herself as a child again, dancing in her dream to the old rock-and-roll song Ooh My Soul by Little Richard. When she wakes up, she's laughing and thinking of her mother:

"I'm crying and I'm laughing and I still want my mother to come to me and take me in her arms."
The next chapter takes readers back to the year 1963. Siddalee is a precocious, intelligent pre-teen who is a member of the Girl Scouts. She joined the scouts primarily to earn as many merit badges and medals as she could -- to earn more than anyone ever has. Unfortunately for Siddalee, her dream is upended by the fact that her mother, Viviane Walker, and her mother's friend Necie suddenly become the troop leaders, and the first thing they do is eliminate merit badges, declaring that they make the scouts look like "military midgets." Siddalee's small ambition must be abandoned. This is told with good humor, and at first the reader is enamored with the "free spirit" of Siddalee's mom. She strikes us as a woman who knows how to have fun and who doesn't take life too seriously, maybe even the perfect mom in her own way.

Viviane and Necie are two members of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, a group of four friends who, as we slowly learn through hints and facts offered in each short-story-like chapter, are friends who have forgotten to grow up. They dream of little more than getting blitzed and going out dancing all night. Viviane, as we come to slowly realize, is not the perfect mother at all. She is selfish and self-indulgent, and the cause of much of her own children's misery.

In separate stories occurring in the 1960's, we meet "Little Shep," Siddalee's brother, named after "Big Shep," their father. We meet Baylor, the younger brother, and Lulu, Siddalee's sister, the "Princess of Gimmee". Her mother named her after Talulah Bankhead, the actress, much to her husband's displeasure. Lulu is proud of what she considers her god-given gift. She is the "best shoplifter in the town of Thornton, bar none." She steals for the thrill of stealing, and gives most of what she takes to others, including her sister, Siddalee, the "goody-goody" one. Lulu tells us that, while Siddalee tells her she is sinning, Siddalee, sure likes the stolen gifts she's given:

"For the past year it's been me and me alone keeping her in Bonne Bell White-White which she loves-loves-loves to put under her eyebrows. I've brought her Yardly eyeliner, eyeshadow and oatmeal soap that costs a fortune."
Lulu has a point. Accepting stolen gifts while condemning the theft is hypocritical. The end of Lulu's chapter is heart-breaking, and here readers begin to realize how little true love is present in the Walker home. It is also in Lulu's chapter that we begin to learn more about the Walker children's mother, as when Lulu talks about a ring she's stolen:
"I don't even take it off to bathe. Mama would snatch it up and sell it for the money and swear it got sucked up in the vacuum cleaner. I am not dumb. My diamond dinner-ring is worth something. It might come in handy if I ever decide I might need to make a quick getaway out of this place."
A "getaway" is, as it turns out, what most of the Walker children dream of. Slowly, story by story, we come to understand that underneath the charm and devil-may-care attitude of the Walker children's mother, a ringleader of the fun-loving Ya-Ya's, is a woman who, while she has her charms and good points, is also a monster of sorts, a woman who resents her captivity as a mother and so resents the children who hold her captive. In her resentment she is, unknowingly, destroying the happiness of her family and her children. She can't see that, for she is too consumed with her own desires and her own lack of happiness.
By the novel's end, we come to understand better the true sadness behind Siddalee's wish made in the first chapter. "I'm crying and I'm laughing and I still want my mother to come to me and take me in her arms." Little Altars Everywhere is a poignant, humorous, sad, heart-warming, heart-breaking novel that may very well, over time, be deemed an American classic, and a wonderful achievement by Rebecca Wells.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
See my review of [Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood] as I read these two books back-to-back ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 8, 2016 |
Little Altars Everywhere is the story of a seriously dysfunctional family in which the parents abuse their four children. Each section is told from the point of view of a different person, and is a description of something that person remembers from their past and how it affects him or her in the present.

This book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly good, either. All of the characters had serious weaknesses and could not cope with them well enough to function normally in the world. It made me uncomfortable to read about how badly the parents had messed up their and their children’s lives.
( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become love. That is the mystery. - Katherine Mansfield
Dedication
To Thomas Schworer, my beloved
Thomas Wells, my brother
T.G., my guide
and
Lodi, my home soil
First words
In my dream, I'm five years old again and it's a summer night at our camp at Spring Creek.
Quotations
Cleanliness might be next to godliness, but honey let me tell you, ugliness will get you nowhere.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060759968, Paperback)

"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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:48 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The Walker clan, Vivi and Big Shep; their children Sidda, Little Shep, Lulu, and Baylor; Vivi's long-time girlfriends the Ya-Yas; and neighbors Cheney and Willetta, live out their lives in flamboyant and secretive style in the bayou of Thorton, Louisiana.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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