Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (and Thanksgiving)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a character-driven novel about the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana. Big Shep and Viviane (Vivi) Walker have four children: Siddalee (the "main character"), Little Shep, Lulu, and Baylor. The family is rounded out by Chaney, the African-American farmhand who helps Big Shep run the farm, and his wife, Willetta, who is also Vivi's maid. Vivi also has a group of crazy girlfriends that some may recognize from another book: the Ya-yas. The story alternates between the 1960's and 1991, as well as between all the characters' points of view. Some might find the alternating viewpoints or time periods confusing, but I thought Ms. Wells did a good job giving each character an individual voice. By far, my favorite character was Sidda, who was very intelligent and a complete bookworm. (Wonder why I liked her!) I love the part of the book where she runs away and is found hiding in the town's bookmobile!

At first glance (especially if you're looking at the pink cover, featuring a little girl jumping rope), the book seems to be a light Southern read: cute vignettes about an Old South family growing up in the 1960's. But the Walker family hides several dark secrets. Vivi and Big Shep both drink far too much, and that leads them down other unsavory paths. There's really not much of a plot to the book; it's mostly just the story of a family told from multiple viewpoints. I'm interested in reading the other two books in the series to see if anything else about the Walkers is revealed.

I really did enjoy the book. Even though it's not plot-driven, I liked most of the Walkers. And I HATED Vivi, which I think I was supposed to. I'd give the book four out of five whatevers. It's a good read for people who like Southern novels and/or character-driven works.


We went to the fiance's aunt and uncle's house for Thanksgiving. I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I ended up enjoying myself. Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday, but since law school, I haven't been able to go home and share it with MY family. Thus, I inevitably end up depressed on Thanksgiving, remembering the years when we would all gather at my Grandma's house and eat till we burst. I know it's not the same anymore: Grandma is in a nursing home now, so dinner is at my parents' house; one of my sisters is now married, so she doesn't come anymore; not all of the cousins show up, depending on what their significant others are doing; there's no more touch football in the yard; etc. But I miss it anyway.

Ricky's family did it up right, though. This is the first year we've celebrated with his extended family. The last couple of years, it was just me and him and his parents. So it was nice to get back to a big family Thanksgiving. We had spicy turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, con gris (black beans and rice), grilled asparagus, frijoles refritos con tocino (refried beans with bacon), homemade cranberry sauce, corn, MOJITOS!...and I made a Cheesy Broccoli Bake to share. Everything was delicious. And his cousin Miguel and his wife Elizabeth had an announcement to make: they're pregnant again! So it was a nice night all around, even if I was missing my family. I'll get to see them soon enough...Christmas is coming!

We've got the tree up, now we just need to get the lights on. But we're both suffering from a terrible chest cold, so that might have to wait for Sunday.

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