Little Altars Everywhere

Posted in Book Reports, History, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on July 28, 2014












Little Altars Everywhere is a book written by Rebecca Wells. LAE was written before Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, with the same characters.

Arguably, you should read Little Alters before you read Divine Secrets. Life does not work that way. Many saw the Ya-Ya movie who will never even know there were books. In PG’s case, he heard about Ya-Ya long before he found it at a yard sale. A few months later, while trolling the shelves of the Chamblee library, he thought to look under Wells, and found Little Alters.

A central character is Viviane Abbott Walker. Mother of four. Ya-Ya. Alcoholic. Catholic. Does not have a problem with hitting children. According to one son, a child molester. In Ya-Ya, we learn that her true love is killed in World War II. There are some other weird scenes during her childhood. Maybe she is a monster, but she came by it honestly. In Little Alters, all you see is the drinking, the religion, and the bad behavior.

These books are set in Louisiana. This apparently is another world, one that is incomprehensible to others. Atlanta is full of former Louisianans, and is a bit whacky in it’s own way. Thornton LA is a place that works all five senses.

Miss Wells writes about the smells. The cold cream on Vivi’s face, when she crawls in bed with Little Shep. The way Willetta’s smells, like Lipton tea and Ajax. The dark waters of the bayou, full of stuff you don’t want to know about.

Smells are said to be the sensation that goes directly to the brain, without a filter. The direct connection to the animal heart. To know how something smells is to know the essence.

Little Alters is a collection of chapters. Each one tells a different story. Each one is told in a different voice. There is no beginning and end, but a big bulge in the middle. Life is short but wide.

Two of the chapter stories are told by Willetta and Chaney. They are a black couple that lives on the farm, and work for the Walkers. Miss Wells tells their story in the voice of old, country black people. Some might say this is not proper, for a white woman to try and talk like a black man. It is done with compassion and accuracy. Whether Miss Wells should do this is up to the individual to decide.

Little Alters can be a dangerous book for lunch hour reading. One day, PG was in a mid summer funk. The chapter that day was Big Shep’s story. He was on the local draft board during Vietnam. Neighbors came to him. They begged him to keep their sons out of that war. Sometimes he could help, sometimes he could not.

One of the ones to go was Lincoln. He was Chaney’s younger brother. During the Tet offensive, Lincoln was killed. The story of Big Shep going to the funeral home was not cheerful, nor should it be.

This book report is written on a monday morning. At this point in his life, PG gets up early. In many ways, the best part of the day is the couple of hours before going down Buford Hiway to the place days are spent. Little Alters will soon be returned to the Chamblee library. There is no telling what will replace it. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.






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