The Temple of My Familiar

by Alice Walker

Hardcover, 1989

Call number




Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1989), Edition: 1st, 416 pages


A visionary cast of characters weave together their past and present in a brilliantly intricate tapestry of tales. It is the story of the dispossessed and displaced, of peoples whose history is ancient and whose future is yet to come. Here we meet Lissie, a woman of many pasts; Arveyda the great guitarist and his Latin American wife who has had to flee her homeland; Suwelo, the history teacher, and his former wife Fanny who has fallen in love with spirits. Hovering tantalizingly above their stories are Miss Celie and Shug, the beloved characters from "The Color Purple".

User reviews

LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
While I enjoyed this more than some of Walker's other material, it is still employing the same themes, characters, and sentiments as always. At the same time, the story here feels more original, and the characters at many points are more believable. If I were to recommend any of Walker's works, it
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would be this one.
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LibraryThing member karima29
This book, a work of fiction, explores topics that range from slavery, to reincarnation, sexuality, self expression, relationships, racism, sexism, healing, magic, music, writing, art, feminism...

It is filled with a rich variety of characters, all with their unique complexity, and weaves them to
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show how interconnected we all are, to everything around us, other human beings, animals, the earth, to life itself.

One of the reasons why Alice Walker is my favourite author is because her writing is very evoking. There's something about the way that she communicates an experience that's not just describing it to you, but it's bringing that experience to life fully. There's no fear in the writing about really delving into a moment of pain and exposing the raw sore for all that it's worth. And in doing so, in evoking the reader in that way, it becomes impossible not to see how one person's pain, is everyone's pain. How the rape of a woman is a rape of humanity in it's entirety.

I think that to be a force of change in this world, to be part of a cause or movement taking a stand against injustice, you need to have felt pain, either through an experience of your own or someone else's. That's why her writing is brilliant. It evokes. It moves. All of a sudden, I can say I have insight into what it feels like to be enslaved, or to lose a child, or to be betrayed. And through all of this her writing depicts the multi-faceted beauty of life, of reality as it is.

My heart becomes that much bigger with sensitivity and compassion. My stand becomes that much stronger. My level of tolerance and capacity to forgive grow as well.

This book is a journey to be savoured.
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LibraryThing member GaijinMama
I'm ashamed to admit that this one sat on my shelves for perhaps 15 years. But clearly, there was a reason I held onto it: it is a beautiful, magical, devastating, lyrical treat! Even though the narrative drifts like a winding river among a cast of intertwined characters, plots, and settings,
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somehow they are all connected. I can't recommend this book highly enough, but I must warn you to be patient. I urge you to just pick it up and go with the flow. Not all questions are answered in the end, but...well, that's reality, isn't it? I'm sure the author would agree with me that, ultimately, all things are connected and the journey is its own goal.

Best treat of all: We get to spend more time hanging out with the delightful Misses Celie and Shug from The Color Purple.
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LibraryThing member PinkPandaParade
Alice Walker is reputedly one of the most well-known, yet most difficult post-modern authors to read, and The Temple of My Familiar makes both of these reputations known. Why is it difficult? In an effort to present life, and I mean life as in the history of man (and other creatures) in this world
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throughout time, there's no doubt that the result of this feat would be a difficult read. Walker's novel travels in a non-linear way through time, covering South America, North America, Africa, and England, among others. With such an all-encompassing focus on "human" history, Walker can focus neither on one time period or one character. Walker achieves this by use of a different ordering principle than we normally use to recognize time, i.e., past lives. She takes fantastic liberties with the presentation of the past and human origins, telling a matriarchal creation story where the men attempt the emulate the perfect art form of female childbirth and pregnancy. Walker also presents an arboreal past that is possibly an evolutionary history, and the most utopic of all the worlds in the novel.With these stories and multi-faceted characters, Walker communicates that in every other person, there is a piece of ourselves and our histories, that from within one person, our entire past exists. She communicates the Jungian philosophy of the collective unconscious being connected back through time and culture in significant ways. It is with this that one of the characters, Mary Jane, claims that "we all touch each other's lives in ways we can't begin to imagine."Such off-the-wall stories and complicated concepts add to the difficulty of the read while at the same time encouraging the readers to swallow a world that is so unlike their "normal" ones. This world of magic realism, an art form perfected by Walker and fellow writer, Toni Morrison, is one that makes for a refreshing and engrossing read. The characters are unforgettable, the historical and visual backdrops breathtaking. Names like Carlotta, Fanny, Hal, Lulu, Suwelo, and Lissie will forever remain portraits of amazing people that live in my mind beyond Walker's intricate telling.Suwelo himself speaks of the "rare people...[who are] connected directly with life and not with its reflection." It is this ultimate person that I believe Walker wants to present, create and/or reach with the readers of this story. With this, Walker's confusing journey becomes almost a dramatization of how she feels the universe itself works.
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LibraryThing member maforsyth
African American, South American characters
Man and woman relationships
Personal identity
LibraryThing member pinkcrayon99
My favorite book of all time by my favorite author! I love the character of Lissie in this book. Reading this book just took me to a different place and time that I didn't want to let go of...
LibraryThing member gbill
This book was given to me by my sister, bless her heart, many years ago. Like my sister, its heart is in the right place, but it comes across as a little preachy.

"What a euphemism, 'leather'. A real nonword. Nowhere in it was concealed the truth of what leather was. Something's skin. And his
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tortoiseshell glasses. He took them off and peered nearsightedly at them, holding them at arm's length. But they were imitation tortoiseshell. Plastic, probably. But this made him even gloomier, for he knew the only reason for imitation anything was that the source of the real thing had dried up. There were probably no more tortoises to kill. And what, anyway, of plastic? It was plentiful, cheap. But even it came from somewhere. Of what was plastic made? What died?"

"HELPED are those who love and actively support the diversity of life; they shall be secure in their differentness."

"You must try not to want 'things' too,' said Ola, 'for 'thingism' is the ultimate block across the path of peace. If everytime you see a tree, you want to make some thing out of it, soon no one on earth will even have air to breathe."
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LibraryThing member TheBentley
Not quite as accessible as The Color Purple, but more sprawling and, by necessity, more finely wrought. This is a big book--lots of characters, with a multi-generational timeline. To complicate things further, a great deal of the book is told in epistolary fashion or in long monologues by one of
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the many characters. Not an easy book to read, but quite good.
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LibraryThing member amaraduende
This is a strange, amazing, mythical-proportioned multi-threaded tale. You may need a map to navigate it, and the ending is rather anti-climactic (ahem) but some of the pieces of it are just amazing. Also, it's like a sequel to "Color Purple," in a way.
LibraryThing member Lostshadows
Not a badly written book, but I couldn't get into it. Introspective characters and a meandering journey of self discovery, isn't really my thing.
LibraryThing member turtlesleap
A meandering discourse on personal discovery, past lives, race, interpersonal relationships, all framed in a narrative that is unpredictable and hard to follow. The character development was quite well done but the overall effect is preachy. Not at al my sort of thing.
LibraryThing member brendanus
Part love story, part fable, part feminist manifesto, part political statement, Walker's novel follows a cast of interrelated characters, most of them black. and each It is a sequel to "The Color Purple"
LibraryThing member terriks
If ever there was a book I would have loved reading in a group or book club-type setting, this would be it. I felt like taking notes throughout the whole thing. I wanted to express my thoughts after certain chapters, and listen to other reactions, too. It has the depth to warrant this. I have come
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across several references to it as "a sequel to The Color Purple," but find that misleading. Some of the characters are the children or other family members of the main characters in TCP, but there is no pick up of that story at all. If you're looking for that, you'll be disappointed.

These people are living their own lives, finding their own way through their own adventures and circumstances. Beautiful prose, as I would expect from Ms. Walker, some of it magical and even surreal. It's dense, to be sure. Some of the characters grow long-winded, and in certain instances I agree with the comments that the monologue style of the book can be challenging - but in other instances, it's perfect.

I regret I had to read it alone, with no discussion or feedback. This is a fine novel, and Alice Walker is a genius. I'd give it 5 stars but for the certain long-winded sections. I wish I had placed sticky-flags while reading it, because parts I'd like to re-visit are hard to find.
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