cover image Little Altars Everywhere

Little Altars Everywhere

Rebecca Wells. Broken Moon Press, $13.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-913089-25-5

The lineage of Wells's 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. (Aug.)