978-0-06-075996-4 / 9780060759964

Little Altars Everywhere: A Novel


Publisher:Harper Perennial



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About the book:

Little Altars Everywhere is much bleaker than its predecessor Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, told by Rebecca Wells with a whisky drawl. Divine Secrets was about heart break, bad parenting and loyalty, spiked with a delicious spitefulness that Scarlett O'Hara would have adored. It was impossible not to be bewitched and bewildered by the Southern charm and molten rage of Vivi and her friends, the Ya-Yas. Bad things happened but narrator Siddalee Walker, Vivi's eldest child, was left with "love and wonder" for her desperado, drunken mother. The charm and the drunken revelry is there in Little Altars Everywhere but it's more desperate and hung over and destructive.

Siddalee, once again, is the hub of the stories, a smart and sensitive raconteur, but the other children also take their part in unpicking the legend that is Vivi. Here Vivi Walker is larger than life and twice as scary, a sort of Mommie Dearest character where affectionate gestures are tainted with inappropriateness, and repressed anger and boredom snakes out into harsh violence. All her children are damaged in some way. Lulu becomes the town's best shop lifter, "The Princess of Gimme", whilst Baylor is depressed and emotionally "parked at the edge of a graveyard." Little Shep's story "Snuggling" goes a long way to explaining the crazy sadness of the Walker children; it tells of Vivi climbing into bed with him: "She looked at me and whispered, Give me a hug, Little Shep, give me a hug and a kiss ... then she reached down and started to rub her hand across one of my nipples." And "Willetta's Witness" brings on the darkness as all four children are "lined up against the wall of that brick house and everyone of them buck naked. Miz Vivi out there with a belt, whuppin' them like horses". Despite all this Little Altars isn't a depressing read; the whiplash wit and the whiskey phrases add some measure of merriment to the misery. --Eithne Farry

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