Little Altars Everywhere

Little Altars Everywhere

3.8 49
by Rebecca Wells
     
 

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The companion to the bestseller Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, here is the tale that first introduced Siddalee, Vivi, their spirited Walker clan, and the indomitable Ya-Yas. See more details below

Overview

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

Editorial Reviews

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.
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.
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!
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
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.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060976842
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/28/1996
Series:
Ya-Yas Series, #2
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.07(h) x 0.61(d)
Lexile:
850L (what's this?)

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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What People are saying about this

W P. Kinsella
Voice and energy are two prerequisites for successful storytelling. Little Altars Everywhere displays very strong voices, and the energy fairly crackles off the page. Rebecca Wells is a writer to watch.
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 crazy. Out of this chemistry she has written a brilliant, pungent, and hilarious novel about the Walker clan of Thorton, 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 the wonderful characters....But it's Wells' tireless and ruthless evocation of childhood combined with an unfailingly shrewd comic ear that makes "Little Alters Everywhere" such a thoroughly joyful and welcomed noise.
Pat Conroy
What an exciting new voice, and what a splendid first novel. Just wonderful!

Read More

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