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Little Altars Everywhere

About the Book

Little Altars Everywhere

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't necessarily 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.

Little Altars Everywhere
by Rebecca Wells

  • Publication Date: May 22, 1996
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0060976845
  • ISBN-13: 9780060976842