Little Altars Everywhere

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Overview

The companion to the beloved bestseller Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, here is the funny, heartbreaking, and powerfully insightful tale that first introduced Siddalee, Vivi, their spirited Walker clan, and the indomitable Ya-Yas.

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Overview

The companion to the beloved bestseller Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, here is the funny, heartbreaking, and powerfully insightful tale that first introduced Siddalee, Vivi, their spirited Walker clan, and the indomitable Ya-Yas.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Denver Post
“A gem of a book....Wells offers a virtuoso performance.”
Seattle Times
“Energetic and delicious…each voice is unique, independent and right on.”
Booklist
“A hilarious and heartbreaking first novel.”
Columbus Dispatch
“At the Walker family altar, sainthood is a one-way ticket to purgatory, and getting there is half the fun.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Wells effectively juxtaposes the innocence and joy of childhood reveries with the pain and guilt of adult memories.”
Washington Post
“Rebecca Wells has written a funny, eloquent and sad novel that easily leaps regional bounds.”
Pat Conroy
What an exciting new voice, and what a splendid first novel. Just wonderful!
Denver Post
A gem of a book....Wells offers a virtuoso performance.
Andrew Ward
Some writers have all the luck. Not only did Rebecca Wells get to be Catholic, she also got to come from Louisiana. This means that half of her is conversant with the Mystery, and the other half is crazy. Out of this chemistry she has written a brilliant, pungent, and hilarious novel about the Walker clan of Thornton, Louisiana. . . I'd like you to meet Miss Siddalee Walker, a force of nature and a tool of fate, and one of the sharpest-eyed little chatterboxes since Huckleberry Finn. Little Altars Everywhere teems with wonderful characters. . . But it's Wells' tireless and ruthless evocation of childhood combined with an unfailingly shrewd comic ear that makes Little Altars Everywhere such a thoroughly joyful and welcome noise.
Seattle Weekly
Rebecca Wells' long-awaited first novel is a brilliant piece of work. . . a structural tour de force. . . a classic Southern tale of dysfunctional and marginal madness. The author's gift for giving life to so many voices the reader profoundly moved.
Western States Book Award Citation Jurors
Wells presents an astonishing family of voices, potent in its pain, dazzlingly brilliant in its stretches and perceptions. This hilariously sad immersion into the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana, will leave few readers unchanged.
Western States Book Award Citation Jurors
Wells presents an astonishing family of voices, potent in its pain, dazzlingly brilliant in its stretches and perceptions. This hilariously sad immersion into the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana, will leave few readers unchanged.
Award Citation Jurors
Western States
Robert Moss
Rebecca Wells' long-awaited first novel is a brilliant piece of work...a structural tour de force...a classic Southern tale of dysfunctional and marginal madness. The author's gift for giving life to so many voices the reader profoundly moved.
Seattle Times
ConroyPat
What an exciting new voice, and what a splendid first novel. Just wonderful!
Denver Post
A gem of a book. . . . Wells offers a virtuoso performance.
Seattle Weekly
Rebecca Wells' long-awaited first novel is a brilliant piece of work...a structural tour de force...a classic Southern tale of dysfunctional and marginal madness. The author's gift for giving life to so many voices the reader profoundly moved.
Denver Post
A gem of a book....Wells offers a virtuoso performance.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The lineage of Wells' 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.
Library Journal
In her 'family of stories,' playwright Wells sets up plenty of 'little altars' for the numerous members of the Walker clan to kneel at and make confession. This crazy, joyful Louisiana family has its share of secrets -- from alcoholism to incest -- that are slowly revealed as each person has his or her say. Readers will be most interested in the oldest daughter, Siddalee, whose sheer irreverence and consuming curiosity propels what little plot there is until she finally discovers how to forgive her family. Wells's keen sense of character and superb ear for voice unify the loose assemblage of tales. -- Rita Ciresi, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Library Journal
In her 'family of stories,' playwright Wells sets up plenty of 'little altars' for the numerous members of the Walker clan to kneel at and make confession. This crazy, joyful Louisiana family has its share of secrets -- from alcoholism to incest -- that are slowly revealed as each person has his or her say. Readers will be most interested in the oldest daughter, Siddalee, whose sheer irreverence and consuming curiosity propels what little plot there is until she finally discovers how to forgive her family. Wells's keen sense of character and superb ear for voice unify the loose assemblage of tales. -- Rita Ciresi, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Western States Book Award Citation Jurors
Wells presents an astonishing family of voices, potent in its pain, dazzlingly brilliant in its stretches and perceptions. This hilariously sad immersion into the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana, will leave few readers unchanged.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060759964
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/15/2005
  • Series: The Ya-Ya Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 332,798
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Wells

Writer, actor, and playwright Rebecca Wells is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Ya-Yas in Bloom, Little Altars Everywhere, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which was made into a feature film. A native of Louisiana, she now lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

Biography

In 1992, a Louisiana-born playwright and actress introduced the world to a clan of quirky Southerners that instantly made an indelible imprint on readers all over the country. Little Altars Everywhere was the warm and witty story of the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana, and it established Rebecca Wells as one of the most beloved writers in contemporary literature. She solidified that position further with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood in 1996. Now, nearly ten years later, Wells is giving her avid fans yet another reason to celebrate.

Wells originally made waves as an acclaimed playwright. After a childhood spent indulging in the Southern tradition of verbal story-telling, Wells decided to develop her innate skill for yarn-spinning by penning plays after moving to New York City to pursue a career as a stage actor.

It was not until the early '90s that Wells decided to try her hand at a novel. While telling the larger story of the dysfunctional Walkers, Little Altars Everywhere chiefly focused on a young girl named Siddalee, a character which author Andrew Ward once described as "one of the sharpest little chatterboxes since Huckleberry Finn." Little Altars became both a critical favorite and a bestseller, and paved the way for the smashingly successful Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which continued Siddalee's story and revealed her mother Vivi's affiliation with an exuberant society of Southern women. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood not only wowed critics across the country, but it hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and inspired a cult-like following of readers to rival Wells's fictional sisterhood.

Unfortunately, during the years following the release of Wells's most beloved novel, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness that no doubt slowed her productivity. "Before I started treatment, on my weakest days, I was unable to lift my hands to type," she says on her web site. "My husband would hold a tape recorder for me so I could talk scenes that were in my imagination. On some days, I could not walk. My husband would lift me out of my wheelchair and into my writing chair. I could only write about 20 minutes, always at night. I learned to humble myself to limitations of energy, and I learned to be grateful that even though my body was so sick, my imagination was still very much alive. I consider Ya-Yas in Bloom to be my ‘miracle baby.'"

Indeed, her legion of fans will agree that her latest release is nothing short of miraculous. After nearly a decade since the release of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells has finally produced the third installment of her popular series. Ya-Yas in Bloom reaches further back than either of her previous novels, examining the origins of the Ya-Ya sisterhood in the 1930s through various narrators and a family album-like format. Wells's devoted followers will surely find much to enjoy in what the author describes as a "more tender book" than her last two works. "Illness -- and the love and forgiveness I have been given have taught me about the need for Tenderness," she says. "Now I know more deeply that we all need more compassion and kindness than this fast, consumer-driven world encourages. Life is not easy. It is filled with pain. It is also filled with joy and moments of ...[a]nd all of a sudden, you realize how beautiful this raggedy life really is."

Wells's positive outlook should only glow more brightly as her health continues to improve. As for the Ya-Yas, Wells is happy to report, "Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I definitely hope to write more Ya-Ya books. The universe of the Ya-Yas has a million tales, and somebody has to tell them!"

Good To Know

While attending the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Wells studied language and consciousness with legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Writing is not the only thing that this author takes seriously. In 1982, she formed a chapter of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament in Seattle, Washington.

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Wells:

"Flowers heal me. Tulips make me happy. I keep myself surrounded by them as soon as they start coming to the island from Canada, and after that when they come from the fields in La Connor, not far from where I live. When their season is over, I surround myself with dahlias from my friend Tami's garden."

"I believe that we are given strength and help from a power much larger than ourselves. I believe if I humble myself that this power will come through me, and help me create work that is bigger than I would have ever been able to have done alone. I believe that illness has led me to a life of gratitude, so I consider Lyme disease at this point in my life to be a blessing in disguise."

"I value humor, kindness, and the ability to tell a good story far more than money, status, or the kind of car someone drives."

"I dislike the second Bush administration's abuse of power. I abhor his administration's waging of war, and the systematic design to make the rich richer and the poor poorer."

"I love being with my husband and family, walking outside, standing in La Luz de La Luna in her ever-changing stages, playing with my dog, singing, dancing, having dinner with friends, playing word games in the parlor, thrilling at our sheep eating alfalfa out of my hand, going to the island farmer's market on Saturdays. I love being told by my doctors that there is every reason to believe that I will get ‘better and better' from Lyme disease. I love that I am privileged enough to have been diagnosed and treated for the fastest growing vector-born bacterial disease in this country."

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    1. Hometown:
      An island near Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alexandria, Louisiana
    1. Education:
      B.A., Louisiana State University; Graduate work, Louisiana State University and Naropa Institute
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Wilderness Training



{Siddalee, 1963}


One thing I really hate about Girl Scouts is those uniforms. Theybring out my worst features -- fat arms and short legs. Mama tries her best to give that drab green get-up some style, but I just get sent home with a note because the glitzy pieces of costume jewelry she pins on me are against regulations.

The only reason I joined Scouts in the first place was all because of merit badges. I wanted to earn more of those things than any other girl in Central Louisiana. I wanted my sash to be so heavy with badges that it would sag off my shoulder when I walked. There wouldn't be any doubt about how outstanding I was. When I walked past the mothers waiting in their station wagons outside the parish hall, I wanted them to shake their heads in amazement. I wanted them to mutter, I just don't know how in the world the child does it! That Siddalee Walker is such a superior Girl Scout.

I love going over and over the checklists for earning those badges in the Girl Scout Handbook. I have eight badges. More than M'lain Chauvin, who constantly tries to beat me in every single thing. I have got to keep my eye on that girl. She is one of my best friends, and we compete in everything from music lessons to telephone manners.

I was making real progress with my badges, and then our Girl Scout troop leader up and quit right after the Christmas holidays. She said she could no longer handle the stress of scouting. She didn't even tell usherself -- just sent a note to the Girl Scout bigwigs, and they cancelled our meetings until they could find someone to take us on.

And wouldn't you know it, out of the wild blue, Mama and Necie Ogden decide to take things over and lead our troop. I could not believe my ears. Mama and Necie have been best friends since age five. Along with Caro and Teensy, they make up the "Ya-Yas." The Ya-Yas drink bourbon and branch water and go shopping together. All day long every Thursday, they play bourrée, which is a kind of cutthroat Louisiana poker. When you get the right cards, you yell out "Bourrée!" real loud, slam your cards down on the table, then go fix another drink. The Ya-Yas had all their kids at just about the same time, but then Necie kept going and had some more. Their idol is Tallulah Bankhead, and they call everyone "Dahling" just like she did. Their favorite singer is Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand, depending on their moods. The Ya-Yas all love to sing. Also, the Ya-Yas were briefly arrested for something they did when they were in high school, but Mama won't tell me what it was because she says I'm too young to comprehend.

At least Necie goes out and gets herself a Girl Scout leader's outfit. Mama will not let anything remotely resembling a Scout-leader uniform touch her skin. She says, Those things are manufactured by Old Hag International. She says, If they insist on keeping those hideous uniforms, then they should change the name from "Girl Scouts" to "Neuter Scouts."

Mama drew up some sketches of new designs for Girl Scout uniforms that she said were far more flattering than the old ones. But none of the Scout bigwigs would listen to her. So instead, she shows up at every meeting wearing her famous orange stretch pants and those huge monster sweaters.

The first official act of Mama and Necie's reign is to completely scrap merit badges, because Mama says they make us look like military midgets.

Whenever I gripe about being cut off just as I was about to earn my Advanced Cooking badge, Mama says, Zip it, kiddo. Don't ever admit you know a thing about cooking or it'll be used against you in later life.

Now at our meetings, instead of working on our Hospitality, Music, and Sewing badges, they have us work on dramatic readings. They make us memorize James Whitcomb Riley and Carl Sandburg poems and then Mama coaches us on how to recite them. She calls out, Enunciate, dahling! Feel it! Feel it! Love those words out into the air!

All my popular girlfriends look at me like: Oh, we never knew you came from a nuthouse. I just lie and tell them Mama used to be a Broadway actress, when all she ever really did in New York was model hats for a year until she got lonely enough to come home and marry Daddy.

Our annual Scout camp-out always comes up just after Easter. I just dread it. I'm in the middle of reading a truly inspiring book called Judy's Journey. It's all about this girl who's exactly my age, and she and, her whole family are migrant workers. They have to travel from place to place, living hand-to-mouth. Judy works in the fields and never complains, and she is brave, and a hard worker, and very popular with all the other migrant kids. Her father plays the harmonica, and her mother is so kind and quiet. I fantasize around fifty times a day about being her instead of me. I would just kill to stay in my room and finish that book instead of going on a stupid camp-out, but you've got to do these things whether you want to or not. Otherwise any chance you have at popularity can go straight down the drain and you will never get it back.

You have to start early if you plan to be popular. Mama was extremely popular when she was growing up. She was elected Most Well-Liked, she was head cheerleader, captain of the girls' tennis team...

Little Altars Everywhere. Copyright © by Rebecca Wells. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

OOH! MY SOUL Siddalee, 1991.......... xi

PART ONE.......... 3
WILDERNESS TRAINING Siddalee, 1963.......... 3
CHOREOGRAPHY Siddalee, 1961.......... 15
WANDERING EYE Big Shep, 1962.......... 27
SKINNY-DIPPING Baylor, 1963.......... 39
BOOKWORMS Viviane, 1964.......... 51
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS Little Shep, 1964.......... 67
BEATITUDES Siddalee, 1963.......... 79
THE ELF AND THE FAIRY Siddalee, 1963.......... 91
THE PRINCESS OF GIMMEE Lulu, 1967.......... 99
HAIR OF THE DOG Siddalee, 1965.......... 113

PART TWO.......... 131
WILLETTA'S WITNESS Willetta, 1990.......... 131
SNUGGLING Little Shep, 1990.......... 145
CATFISH DREAMS Baylor, 1990.......... 153
E-Z BOY WAR Big Shep, 1991.......... 169
PLAYBOY'S SCRAPBOOK Chaney, 1991.......... 185
LOOKING FOR MY MULES Viviane, 1991.......... 195
THE FIRST IMPERFECT DIVINE COMPASSION BAPTISM.......... 209
VIDEO Siddalee, 1991

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First Chapter

Little Altars Everywhere
A Novel

WILDERNESS TRAINING

Siddalee, -1963

One thing I really hate about Girl Scouts is those uniforms. They bring out my worst features-fat arms and short legs. Mama tries her best to give that drab green get-up some style, but I just get sent home with a note because the glitzy pieces of costume jewelry she pins on me are against regulations.

The only reason I joined Scouts in the first place was all because of merit badges. I wanted to earn more of those things than any other girl in Central Louisiana. I wanted my sash to be so heavy with badges that it would sag off my shoulder when 1 walked. There wouldn't be any doubt about how outstanding I was. When I walked past the mothers waiting in their station wagons outside the parish hall, I wanted them to shake their heads in amazement. I wanted them to mutter, 1 just don't know how in the world the child does it! That Siddalee Walker is such a superior Girl Scout.

I love going over and over the checklists for earning those badges in the Girl Scout Handbook. I have eight badges. More than M'lain Chauvin, who constantly tries to beat me in every single thing. 1 have got to keep my eye on that girl. She is one of my best friends, and we compete in everything from music lessons to telephone manners.

I was making real progress with my badges, and then our Girl Scout troop leader up and quit right after the Christmas holidays. She said she could no longer handle the stress of scouting. She didn't even tell us herself-just sent a note to the Girl Scout bigwigs, and they cancelled our meetings until they could find someone to take us on.

And wouldn't you know it, out of the wild blue, Mama and Necie Ogden decide to take things over and lead our troop. I could not believe my ears. Mama and Necie have been best friends since age five. Along with Caro and Teensy, they make up the "Ya-Yas." The Ya-Yas drink bourbon and branch water and go shopping together. All day long every Thursday, they play bourree, which is a kind of cutthroat Louisiana poker. When you get the right cards, you yell out "Bourree!" real loud, slam your cards down on the table, then go fix another drink. The Ya-Yas had all their kids at just about the same time, but then Necie kept going and had some more. Their idol is Tallulah Bankhead, and they call everyone "Dahling" just like she did. Their favorite singer is Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand, depending on their moods. The Ya-Yas all love to sing. Also, the Ya-Yas were briefly arrested for something they did when they were in high school, but Mama won't tell me what it was because she says I'm too young to comprehend.

At least Necie goes out and gets herself a Girl Scout leader's outfit. Mama will not let anything remotely resembling a Scout-leader uniform touch her skin. She says, Those things are manufactured by Old Hag International. She says, If they insist on keeping those hideous uniforms, then they should change the name from "Girl Scouts" to "Neuter Scouts."

Mama drew up some sketches of new designs for Girl Scout uniforms that she said were far more flattering than the old ones. But none of the Scout bigwigs would listen to her. So instead, she shows up at every meeting wearing her famous orange stretch pants and those huge monster sweaters.

The first official act of Mama and Necie's reign is to completely scrap merit badges, because Mama says they make us look like military midgets.

Whenever I gripe about being cut off just as I was about to earn my Advanced Cooking badge, Mama says, Zip it, kiddo. Don't ever admit you know a thing about cooking or it'll be used against you in later life.

Now at our meetings, instead of working on our Hospitality, Music, and Sewing badges, they have us work on dramatic readings. They make us memorize James Whitcomb Riley and Carl Sandburg poems and then Mama coaches us on how to recite them. She calls out, Enunciate, dahling! Feel it! Feel it! Love those words out into the air!

All my popular girlfriends look at me like: came from a nuthouse. I Just lie and tell them Mama used to be a Broadway actress, when all she ever really did in New York was model hats for a year until she got lonely enough to come home and marry Daddy.

Our annual Scout camp-out always comes up just after Easter. I just dread it. I'm in the middle of reading a truly inspiring book called Judy's Journey. It's all about this girl who's exactly my age, and she and her whole family are migrant workers. They have to travel from place to place, living hand-to-mouth. Judy works in the fields and never complains, and she is brave, and a hard worker, and very popular with all the other migrant kids. Her father plays the harmonica, and her mother is so kind and quiet. I fantasize around fifty times a day about being her instead of me. I would just kill to stay in my room and finish that book instead of going on a stupid camp-out, but you've got to do these things whether you want to or not. Otherwise any chance you have at popularity can go straight down the drain and you will never get it back.

You have to start early if you plan to be popular. Mama was extremely popular when she was growing up. She was elected Most Well-Liked, she was head cheerleader, captain of the girls' tennis team, and assistant editor of the yearbook. Everyone at Thornton High knew who she was, Even though it sometimes wore her out, she said Hi! to every single soul she passed in the hall. It was a lot of work, but that is how her reputation was built. Mama understands the gospel of popularity and she is passing it on to me so I won't be left out on the fringes.

We head out to Camp Mary Alice real early on a Saturday morning. It is twenty or so miles from Thornton, in the deep piney woods. They named the camp for this very famous Louisiana Girl Scout who gave up her entire life for scouting. There is a main lodge built of logs with a huge fireplace at one end, long tables set up in the middle, and a big kitchen at the other end. Not far away, at the edge of the woods, there is a screened-in cabin filled with bunk beds where you sleep.

Right off the bat, Necie backs her Country Squire station wagon into the flagpole and bends it in half I'm inside the cabin unfurling my bedroll when I hear this big uproar. I bolt out the door andwouldn't you know it--there is the Girl Scout flag flapping in the...

Little Altars Everywhere
A Novel
. Copyright © by Rebecca Wells. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
I feel a hairline fracture of pain in my heart. And I feel it: the sweet pure longing of each of us, still intact. My family stands in a circle around me. All the innocence, the old woundings. It grows so quiet. I feel my godchild's breathing against my chest, but it is also the breathing of parched babies in drought-stricken lands. I feel each member of my family's breath dropping in and out, until it seems like we are all part of one giant bellows. And all the suffering spirals down into one shaft of sunlight which shines though one stained glass window in Thornton, Louisiana. This is what I come home to. I do not have to crawl across the desert on my knees. I do not have to swim through turbulent oceans to stop the drownings. All I have to do is watch and pray, and love them. Not save them, not hurt them, just love them.

Little Altars Everywhere, the first novel by Rebecca Wells, is the bittersweet story of the Walker clan of Thornton, Louisiana. Vivi Abbot Walker, the mother, is the eye of the hurricane. Her husband, Shep, is a cotton planter, and the two of them have four children: Siddalee, Little Shep, Baylor, and Lulu, who is named for Tallulah Bankhead, one of her mother's patron saints.

Each member of this funny, charming, and wounded family describes the view from his or her perch on the family tree. The book opens in 1963 with the recollections of Siddalee as a young girl, and continues with entries from her siblings, parents, and the black "help" who cannot save the Walker's from their darkness.

Twenty-seven years later, Wells returns to the Walkers, and this time the stories are startlingly different. The previous stories weren'tnecessarily lies, but they weren't the whole truth. It becomes clear that ultimately, there is no one truth within a family; there are only each character's tiny pin-light of truth. Little Altars Everywhere is finally about the tiny murders that occur within a loving but lost Catholic Louisiana family. It offers no miracles of redemption; instead it suggests the power of an open heart to offer protection to the innocent.


1. Wells uses multiple narrators to unfold the story in Little Altars Everywhere. What advantages are gained by this? Does this multiple perspective mean that we sense the story from a broader perspective from that of any one character? And what, if any value, is that broader perspective when evaluating the moral behavior of a character? Does the use of multiple narrators point to a truth that is too big, too uncertain, and too complex for any one character or person to put all together into a cogent vision? Do multiple narrators soften our judgments about a character?

2. What attitude does the novel take toward institutional religion (i.e., denominations), spirituality (a belief in and need for God and meaning), and human suffering. Catholicism is a strong presence in the novel. How does Catholicism both bless and damage the Walker family?

3. Vivi imparts a complex legacy to her children. What are the ingredients of this legacy? Shame? Suffering? A sense of wonder? A capacity for rapture?

4. Wells has said that "humor is the healing art." Discuss this in light of this novel.

5. Wells opens the novel with references to Little Richard in the "Prologue" and to Aaron Neville in the concluding chapter? What significance might this have? What role does racism play in the story of the Walkers? How does the value system of Chaney and Willetta differ from that of Vivi and Shep?

6. At the end of the novel, Sidda has a moment of insight into both her life and the lives of her family when she suddenly realizes that, "All their longing was pure." What does Sidda mean by this expression?

7. How can the acceptance of suffering help transform that suffering into love?

About the Author: Rebecca Wells, a Louisiana native, is an author, actor and playwright. Her works for the stage include Splittin' Hairs and Gloria Duplex, for which she created the lead roles. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Western States Book Award for her first novel, Little Altars Everywhere. She tours a one-woman show based on Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Wells lives on an island near Seattle, Washington.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2006

    LITTLE ALTARS EVERYWHERE A MUST READ

    SUMMARY Little Altars Everywhere is an incredible sequel to the book The Ya Ya Sisterhood. The book starts with Sidda again, and she is telling one of her childhood memories from long ago. Each chapter begins a new story from a character¿s point of view. There is not one main topic for this book because it is a collection of the family members¿ memories. The characters that were in this book were Sidda Lee, the oldest daughter, Lulu, the middle child, Baylor, the second to oldest kid, Little Shep, the youngest child out of all of them, Shep, the father, their mother, and Willetta the maid. This book is more outrageous than the last because there is physical abuse, sexual abuse, a lesbian scene, shoplifting, and stupid things the characters said and did without even thinking. I was baffled when I finished the book because so much information is jam packed into a small novel, and someone like me can¿t comprehend everything that happened throughout the book because I guess you could say I¿m a little more naïve than the author. Rebecca Wells writes with such intensity that it was a little too much for a 13 year old to handle. I don¿t normally read about such adventurous and unusual event occurring so when I read the book I was definitely shocked in a big way. LIKES//DISLIKES Rebecca Wells, the author, had a very strong voice in each of the characters. She was very blunt and to the point when she told the characters¿ point of view. As a result, many swear words were used to match the father and mother¿s personality, and later on in the book as time went by the kids grew up and spoke in the same manner. She spoke in first person, making the characters in her story very realistic and intimidating. I would never approach anyone from the Walker family because they had, well, their issues. The vocabulary is somewhat difficult because I would come along unfamiliar words every once in a while but if I compared it to the words around it, then the word made sense. I really enjoyed the book for its challenging vocabulary because most books I read are way too easy and a challenge is a good way for me to exercise my brain. This book comes across as very unique to me because it is the only book I¿ve ever read that is split into sections of separate stories, stating the character telling the story and the time too. It made it seem like it was actual history from a real family. I could honestly say that this book was the most helpful when I wanted to analyze the reasons for the characters actions because they explain everything themselves and they give you ideas but it was not good for picturing each scene happening mainly because when a person describes something they just aren¿t going to describe what everything looked like so vividly and how it all happened. In Little Altars Everywhere the characters just speak like I would in a conversation so detail wise, it wasn¿t too helpful. BOOK RATING I really think Little Altars Everywhere earns 10 out of 10 stars. It was just so interesting, I mean really I know I say that about every book I read but none add up to this. I can guarantee you there isn¿t another book as good as this one. Rebecca Wells was given a gift and she really used it to her advantage because her books have sold like at least millions and millions of copies. She just came up with a random idea, the Ya Ya Sisterhood and built off of that. I don¿t know many people that can do that: come up with and idea and build a book series off of it. She seriously spent a lot of hard work and time to write this book and I think everyone should read it. On the recommendation part I suggest people any gender over the age of 13 unless you happen to be really mature. The conflicts are just way too confusing and mature for a little kid to understand. Most young children are shielded from the bad things in this world, and this book probably has like all of those inappropriate topics in there throughout the whole book. FINAL THOUGHTS I r

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    Spectacular

    Spectacular

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Beautifully written yet unexpected

    I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Having read Rebecca Wells' work before I knew I was in for a fun romp. However I was touched by the deep and unspoken scars left by the Mother's actions on each character, and was taken down a road of dysfunction, neglect, abuse and ultimately acceptance, healing and recovery.

    A must read for any "former child" who had a difficult road or just if one is looking for an entertaining look at the human heart and soul, in all their complex forms.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2007

    A Disjointed Roller Coaster of a Story

    Despite the less than flattering title I gave this review, I do recommend reading it. This is not a traditional novel with a specific beginning, middle, and end, but rather a collection of stories--funny, sad, and, yes, horrific--told from the viewpoints of various family members growing up on a plantation in Louisiana in the early 1960's. The book was split in two sections, with the second half devoted to the now adult children of Vivi and Big Shep and how they turned out after leaving the fold. While Well's stories reflected a range of emotional ups and downs, I think she did a good job of capturing the realities of growing up in an abusive, alcoholic household. Every disagreement is over the top and threatens violence. Every mildly funny moment is rolling on the floor laughter. In short, every reaction is to the extreme. And kids living in the middle of it, simply accept it as a fact of life--what else can they do? I did, however, have one big problem with this book and that was in tying it to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which I had read first several years ago. Divine Secrets painted Vivi, the matriarch, as complex and difficult at times, but not necessarily detestable. Little Altars, however, made her a monster--and the worst kind of a monster--the kind people just shrug off, ignore, or whose monstrous behavior simply gets buried or explained away. I have to say after reading Little Altars Everywhere, I had a lot of trouble with Well's seeming celebration of the Ya-Ya's and their notion of 'sisterhood'. Surely these women all knew the abusive bent of their leader Vivi, but like the doctors who looked the other way at Siddalee's whipping marks when they treated her for her asthma, they seemed to simply ignore it. In my book that's not sisterhood--that's just plain sick. I know movies often stray far from the storyline of the book, but after reading 'Little Altars', I'm glad I never saw Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood--because I would end up hating all these women for their collusion. Enough said--read it anyway. If nothing else, it is certainly a thought-provoking collection of childhood memories.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2011

    IF YOU LIKE 'DIVINE SECRETS' DON'T READ THIS BOOK

    I enjoyed this book up until the 'Snuggling' chapter, then I quit reading. I don't see the point in ruining the Vivi character, and I think it even tarnished my opinion of "Divine Secrets'. I don't see how Little Shep or even Sidda could even talk to Vivi after what she did. I don't think they would in real life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2008

    INCEST AND VIOLENCE??? DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Who writes about a mother molesting her own children??? Divine Secrets was great- but this took it too far into a perverted way. I am so disappointed with Rebecca Wells.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    INTERESTING

    As one of the other reviewers said -- I was a little put off at first because of the format this book was written in. But as I moved along I thought it compelling. It did seem to fall apart a little at the end so I scanned. Its different and I would recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2006

    Two Books in One

    The minute I started reading, I was hooked. The first half of 'Alters' is absolutely hillarious! It was eerie how much it reminded me of another wonderful book I had just finished ('Leaving Eden' by Anne D LeClaire), right down to the sayings and so forth. However, once I finished the first half and moved on to the second half, things began to plummet. Fast. The first half of the book is told mainly by Sidda, Baylor, and Little Shep in the 60's (their childhood years). I laughed so hard at some of the things they would say about life in general. I was looking foreword to seeing how it ended. Well, the second half is told by the same characters as adults. Something awful happened to them in the transition to adulthood. They became obnoxious jerks! The second half mainly focuses on how horrible their childhood is, and how they hate their mother (whom they seemed to love when they were kids). I hated it so much, that I only skimmed the last few chapters, and then read the last paragraph of the book. My husband had to constantly remind me to finish the book. When he asked if I had finished it, I had to reply 'sort of'. I've never seen a book go from so good to so bad so quickly. Most of the swear words (and there are quite a few) appear in the last half. I recommend reading only the first half. Each chapter is bascially a story within itself, so I didn't feel like I was missing anything by not finishing it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2005

    Not as good as I'd hoped

    This is the first of the three ya-ya books that I have read, and I have to be honest - it has given me no motivation to go on! The book was ultra dry, and seemingly pointless. There was no real story to be told, just a rambling of bits and pieces of life through the years. A few chapters held my interest, but they were few and far between. If you're thinking about reading it, I say don't bother. You aren't missing much, unfortunately!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2005

    Interesting

    With the new Ya-Ya's book just out, and who doesn't like to go around saying Ya-Ya's, I decided to finally buy the first two. What an interesting, sweet, troubling story. I found myself drawn into everyones story and cannot wait to start the second book tomorrow. I am glad I decided to start with the first book. Have to admit I was curious about how much the movie deviated from the actual book. It is good to have all this background information from 'Little Altars Everywhere'. Life isn't always how it seems to others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2005

    Tres Excellent

    Ok, well when I first started to read this book I was NOT impressed at all, probably due to the format. But since I am an avid reader I decided to give it a chance and let the story develop. Well, a whole volume of adventures and romance and drama unfolded in front of me. I received more information about Vivi from different perspectives. Yes, this book is a little different and sometimes repeat things, but you gotta remember it is coming from a different point of view and if you read hard you can see where the real story is. Because although five people may witness something at the same time, there will be five different stories. I think that gives you more insight into the way people observe the actions of the world through their different senses. Well before I talk too much hear, the bottom line is: excellent book. I recommend it. Just remember to give things a chance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2003

    Not as good as 'Divine Secrets...'

    I read 'Divine Secrets..' first and then this one. I was not at all as captivated by this as the other. I did not like the way Vivi was portrayed in this book. There was no real 'story' to it. Some reviewer said that IT is the novel from which the film was derived.. I don't agree. I HIGHLY reccommend 'Divine Secrets...' and look forward to Rebecca Wells' next novel but I advise you skip this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    Great Reading Material

    Once I picked up the book, I was finished. This book captured my spirit with Siddalee telling about her past in her Louisiana home. It was a halarious book all through. The author, who as well lived in Louisiana, does a swell job. The stories she writes are well written and everything correct. Telling about Siddalee out of Ya-Ya Sisterhood was great!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2002

    An average book...

    I don't quite know what all the hoopla is with this book. I found the first couple of chapters interesting, but after that the book got a little tedious. I found that I wasn't in the least interested about what any of the characters had to say. I haven't seen or read Divine Secrets and I'm now reconsidering if I really want to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2002

    Sad,Funny,heart wrenching,hilarious

    What a wonderful way to capture the spirit of the Ya Ya's and their families. I feel like I'm that much closer to them. I have also noticed I'm a part of some Ya Ya's and didn't even know it! Girl Power!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2002

    Must read before Divine Secrets..

    This book is a must read before you see the Divine Secrets movie or read the book...It gives you the insight into all the characters that carry into Divine Secrets and then you want to stand up and yell for this 'normal' american family.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2002

    Trying to Make It Last

    I read Divine Secrets first and loved it and then decided to read Little Altars. I do love Ms. Wells' writing style. I laughed, I cried, I cringed -- especially at 'Snuggling' and the parts with the children being hit with a belt-- both of which leave me with such a dark feeling about Vivi but at the same time realizing what a very sick person she was in more ways than one. I feel like I'm with these people--they come alive to me. I'm trying to make this book last but I can't help reading it quickly. Lots of dysfunction and pain, lots of laughs and fun...just like real life!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2002

    ya-yas rule!!

    I thought that this book was so great. I read it really quickly. I was so drawn to the characters. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great read. If you have read 'The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood' and haven't read this one, go get it now!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    Hated it!

    Rebecca Wells absolutely ruined Ya Ya for me. I read Ya Ya first and then went to look for other books by her and bought Little Altars. Making Vivi a sex offender was overkill and absolutely unnecessary. It makes the whole Ya Ya craze absurd and ridiculous. Do not read this book if you liked Ya Ya. I was angry after reading Little Altars but not at Vivi, I was angry at Ms. Wells for ruining a perfectly good book by this absurd 'prequal'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2002

    little altars not as good as Ya-Yas

    I thought Little Altars was great up until I read the chapter 'Snuggling'. I read Divine Secrets first and I think the above chapter ruins Vivi Walker's character.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews

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