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The Temple of My Familiar

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  11,783 Ratings  ·  379 Reviews
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,
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 16th 2004 by Phoenix (first published January 1st 1989)
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The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Best African American Books
34th out of 627 books — 805 voters
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Favorite Magical Realism Novels
68th out of 891 books — 4,110 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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“Long will we remember pain, but the pain itself, as it was at that point of intensity that made us feel as if we must die of it, eventually vanishes. Our memory of it becomes its only trace. Walls remain. They grow moss. They are difficult barriers to cross, to get to others, to get to closed-down parts of ourselves.” - Alice Walker, The Temple of my Familiar

It’s quite an intimidating feat to review this book. The Temple of my Familiar is such a rich, multi-layered story, the kind that you ca
Jul 21, 2015 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zanna by: Rowena
"Obenjomade, clean out your ears: THE WHITE MAN IS STILL HERE. Even when he leaves, he is not gone."

"Obenjomade, cup your endearingly large ears: EVERYONE ALL OVER THE WORLD KNOWS EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT THE WHITE MAN. That's the essential meaning of television. BUT THEY KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT THEMSELVES."

"If you tear out the tongue of another, you have a tongue in your hand for the rest of your life. You are responsible, therefore, for all that person might have said."

Folk Memory,
Jul 02, 2008 Leah rated it really liked it
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 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 Eng ...more
Feb 03, 2009 Gaijinmama rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction

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, 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, b
Jan 25, 2009 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changers
Obviously I must be unpacking all my favorite books! I read this in college and it changed my life, opened my eyes to some beautiful ideas and meanings about life, feminism, love, and spirituality. There is magic, tribal wisdom, african myths, goddess worship, reincarnation, a little of everything! It was the first time I was able to see that there is wisdom is so many faiths and beliefs and you can respect them without having to declare allegiance to them. If I did have a familiar, I believe it ...more
Jun 25, 2008 Jstg00d rated it it was amazing
This book was a different experience than most books.

I initially was swept in by the writing. I felt like I could touch the scenes.

I am actually a big narrative person, i.e. I usually like a great story line. This did not disappoint, but it was more about the characters. It reminded me of Grapes of Wrath in that it wasn't until I read the final chapters of the book that the story line rushed over me and revealed its excellence.

Written by Alice Walker, the book explores African-American culture,
2.5 stars
There are some great topics of discussion in this book but it just didn't feel like a novel. There's no real plot, nothing flows, and the characters aren't well developed. The worst part is the excessive use of dialogue. With page after page of long quotes, it seems that Walker took the lazy-writer route on this one. Granted, she delivers powerful messages on gender, race, power, and the evolution of humanity; so this book is not a total fail. It's just poorly formatted. In fact, it's m
Dec 17, 2013 Carrie rated it it was amazing
Grateful to be in a book club that makes me read books like this one. Thanks Alison for choosing it.

It is a rare gift to find a book that challenges racism, sexism, colonialism, heterosexism, stifling monogamous culture, and similar while managing to NOT be pedantic and to weave a rich narrative tapestry around its characters. A book about how all things and people are connected, it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from The Gulag Archipelago:

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the lin
May 12, 2008 Jennie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OMG, did I ever hate this book. I loved The Color Purple, so I thought I'd like this.

It jumps around like crazy and includes new characters far more often than it refers back to ones we've already met. I got so sick of trying to keep track of characters that I finally threw it down in disgust. Irritating and a waste of time.
Hope Erin Phillips
Aug 16, 2015 Hope Erin Phillips rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wndb
OK SO this is the first book I picked up after having consciously decided to pick up the no (white, cis, straight) men authors for a year book challenge, with a particular focus on reading the works of women of colour, trans people, and queer folks. I picked this book because it was in my roommate's library and bc i know alice walker is a heavyweight author not to be fucked with wrt race and sexuality... I was initially not super engaged with the writing of this book but then all of a sudden BAM ...more
Feb 16, 2014 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book shook me. It comforted me while at the same time making me extremely uncomfortable, and at first I was upset by that. Then I thought, "What's the use of a book if it doesn't make you challenge your own thoughts?"

It took me a good while to read all the way through because I kept stopping to chew over what it handed me, and in the end I'm not entirely sure I understood it in spite of all that ruminating. Its scope is truly phenomenal in terms of time alone, and then there are the people
Dec 11, 2010 Becky rated it did not like it
3.99 star average? Really? That makes The Temple of My Familiar one of the most highly rated books I've come across on Goodreads. Way ahead of most of the 1001 books to read before you die. Well I don't get it. At all. Are we all being PC? Did we genuinely enjoy this overwrought wrangling with the ideas of feminism, "normal" relationships, colour and love? I sincerely believe that to be an honest and decent person today, you have to be connected with your past, and to understand the sacrifices m ...more
May 31, 2013 Juliana rated it it was amazing
"In Uncle Rafe's house Suwelo always seemed to himself to be in a rather idle state of mind. His life had stopped, at least the life he thought he was building with Fanny, at he was suspended. He sometimes felt literally as if his feet did not touch upon the ground. It was a relief. And at times too, he simply thought, something that money, enough to keep you going for a while without worrying, permitted you to do. Another of the many advantages of the rich, but only if they were clever enough n ...more
Jun 09, 2007 Nicole rated it it was amazing
is there a bookshelf called "to re-read?" this is definitely one of those. and i'm not even done with it.
several metaphors come to life in this book, but one scene that I see as representative of the entire novel, is where Lissie is showing Suwelo several different pictures of herself taken in one day. Except the woman in each picture is distinctly different from the next. and from the clothing you can tell that they are also different time periods. but they are all of Lissie. Lissie explains th
Teri Drake-Floyd
Jan 13, 2016 Teri Drake-Floyd rated it really liked it
It was nice to see Celie and Shug again. The story about Celie and the dog was especially bittersweet.

Alice Walker gets flack for becoming less bitter and political and more spiritual and introspective as she ages, but I love her journey. Her words are full of wisdom and insight and act as a balm for the hurting soul. I was reading this book at just the right time - it was a comfort and settled over me like an old friend. I've seen other reviews that condemn it for being too "quote" or "soundby
Jan 21, 2010 Amanda rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. I read it way back in college, as part of a literary class. We read a book a week, and NO ONE in the class finished this book in a week (we all managed to finish all of the other books on time). No. One! The reason we decided upon is that it's a book to read in chunks, to mull over what you read for a bit, and then go back to it later on and read some more. I have reread the book a few times over the years, and have always found the same to be true - that I can only rea ...more
Brandon Floyd
Aug 14, 2015 Brandon Floyd rated it liked it
Most of the time I spent reading this book was also spent wishing I enjoyed it more, but I never quite moved beyond admiration. Alice Walker is someone I will generally let guide me toward places I would otherwise consider absurd, just because she's so skilled at validating narrative and character. It's understood that she's an ambitious writer, and I've found that her work manages to stick the landing more often than not, but The Temple of My Familiar just didn't settle in any enjoyable way for ...more
Betsy Curlin
Oct 01, 2012 Betsy Curlin rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I did not read her first book, The Color Purple, and perhaps that is why I love this book so much. I was not influenced by the style of her earlier book. The writing is lyrical, imaginative, and intricate. I was so swept into this world that I didn't want the book to end. Just the pure beauty of the writing, along with the intricate mythology is reason enough to read this book. I need to re-read it just for the sensual experience.
Jeremy Garber
Walker's book is a challenging read, in many aspects of 'challenge.' Walker's book follows the intertwinings of a particular family throughout all of known (and unknown) history. Through this device, Walker proposes her own alternate mythology of origin, a state of grace where humans and animals lived in peace until the formation of race and gender caused a fall into arrogance and violence. We see characters of all genders, orientations, and ethnic backgrounds struggling with survival and the di ...more
Kathy Kattenburg
Alice Walker knows how to write. And her beautiful use of language is why this book gets two stars instead of one.

Apart from her writing proficiency, as a novel, as a story (at least, what I assume she intended as a story), I actively disliked "The Temple of My Familiar." It's not a coherent or connected narrative. It's mainly a collection of long, pretentious speeches by the various characters about racism, relationships, sex, and reincarnation. There is no plot. There is no character developm
Lisa James
Feb 11, 2012 Lisa James rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books-list
This story takes you on a journey. It's Suwelo's journey back to take care of things after the death of his Uncle Rafe. It's the journey of Miss Lissie over a span of thousands of years & many lifetimes. It's the journey of Fanny in her search for herself. It's the journey of Carlotta & Arveyda in their love, troubles, & finding each other again. Beautifully told, & woven masterfully together, this is a story that you won't soon forget....
Jan 11, 2012 Ceeairrah rated it it was amazing

I was only familiar with Alice Walker's work "The Color Purple" before I read this novel. The two books are on the extreme opposites of the literary spectrum. "Temple of My Familiar" captured my senses from the first line. I don't want to give the story line away. Read the book and find the magical elements for yourself. It truly was an amazing book.
Linda Robinson
Sep 06, 2009 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A dream of a book. A vision. In my Top Ten. One of the best titles ever.

pg. 357 Miss Lissie's dream memory as told to Suwelo:

"Just as my mother was queen because of her wisdom, experience, ability to soothe and to heal, because of her innate delicacy of thought and circumspection of action, and most of all because of her gentleness..."

Jo Forrester
Jun 28, 2016 Jo Forrester rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, I thought this novel was very strange. I was expecting, and looking forward to, a sequel to The Color Purple but I had to read a third of the book before I was able to make the connection between the characters of this book and The Color Purple. This book does not follow any chronological order and jumps from the experiences and insights of one character to the next with little to no warning. But, once I allowed myself to just follow along I realized how much I enjoyed the stories each ...more
Jan 03, 2015 Christie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my eyes, Alice Walker is a genius in how she represents the many facets of life. She brings light to the ways of mankind and how things changed over time and how racism is still very much alive in today's society. Only we as human beings can change it as she writes in the stories of the characters who tell of their many lives and the trials and tribulations they each had to face to achieve the peace of life they were all trying to get to. True, it was sometimes hard to read, but it opened up ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Jerrica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, summer-14
This book has given me so many feelings I'm not even sure where to start.

It's considered the sequel to The Color Purple, and it's cool because it continues the stories of The Color Purple gang and their offspring, but it also sprouts off into many different directions, with dozens of characters, multiple continents, not to mention many, many, generations. Incredibly, every character, every continent, every generation, their feelings, and their themes are all perfectly and masterfully fleshed out
Apr 20, 2011 Katherine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The images and ideas she creates still run through my imagination - like a riddle or a picture or an idea that I can just about capture, then it slips away. I think she captures the profound and complex ways we are all tied to each other, and to our history, in this beautifully written novel.
Jul 29, 2015 katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. How wonderful to reread this book as an adult and to remember the me I was when I first read it. So formative it was to me, in learning how to be woman in this world. And how much deeper it rings true for me now. My AliceWalker-affection is rekindled. What a novel!
Jul 23, 2008 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This sequel is very different from The Color Purple but worth a read. Alice Walker writes brilliantly about the complicated dyamics of heterosexual relationships, history, and feminism. I found her writing in this book to be both thought provoking and funny.
Apr 07, 2016 Chanika rated it really liked it
I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how moved I was by this novel. I decided to read it on a whim (which I would NOT recommend) and found myself in for a beautiful treat. In typical Alice Walker fashion, her characters resonated and the lyricism of her prose made the same impression I imagine Aruyveda's music, Fanny's massages, and Ms. Lizzie's paintings would have if they actually existed. The parts of this work that moved me the most are also the reasons why I love David Mitchel ...more
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Alice Walker, one of the United States’ preeminent writers, is an award-winning author of novels, stories, essays, and poetry. In 1983, Walker became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her novel The Color Purple, which also won the National Book Award. Her other books include The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Meridian, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessi ...more
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“I'm mad about the waste that happens when people who love each other can't even bring themselves to talk.” 104 likes
“Helped are those who are content to be themselves; they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant.” 96 likes
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