Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Temple of My Familiar” as Want to Read:
The Temple of My Familiar
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Temple of My Familiar

(The Color Purple Collection #2)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  13,675 ratings  ·  510 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 W&N (first published January 1st 1989)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Temple of My Familiar, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Genevieve No, I don't think so. The first time I read it, I had no idea it was connected The Color Purple. I now realize that one of the more prominent characte…moreNo, I don't think so. The first time I read it, I had no idea it was connected The Color Purple. I now realize that one of the more prominent characters is the grandaughter of Celie from TCP. It fills out the atmosphere more completely, but the story makes sense without knowing it.(less)
Genevieve Content warnings for The Temple of My Familiar would be rape, cheating, sexual assault, abuse, murder, claustrophobia, death of parents, death of chil…moreContent warnings for The Temple of My Familiar would be rape, cheating, sexual assault, abuse, murder, claustrophobia, death of parents, death of children, bodily fluids, and general sexual content.

Apart from the consensual sex, none of those topics are lingered on and all serve a purpose in the novel. If you are on the fence about it, it's easy enough to skip the paragraph, and in my opinion, it's not gratuitous.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,675 ratings  ·  510 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Temple of My Familiar
“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
Oct 01, 2013 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 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
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
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
Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~
DNF @ 50%

Too scattered, too many POVs, too many timelines and loaded with atrocities, it's an interesting examination on what it means to be oppressed and female, but it's a disjointed story without much plot but plenty of unlikable characters (such as the mom who steals her daughter's husband. Uh-huh.). As a "sequel" to The Color Purple, it shares none of the former's charm or warmth and only has a couple of characters in common, who don't show up until a third of the way through the story and
Hope Erin Phillips
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2009 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
May 06, 2008 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,
May 12, 2008 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.
Glen Stott
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I took notes, as I always do. It didn’t help much. “Ulysses” by James Joyce was difficult to read but it had a character and a storyline that followed a sequence the reader could diagram. “Temple of My Familiar” is simply chaotic. There is no single character you can engage with, no single story you can follow, no time line you can track. Imagine a Scrabble game with a couple of dozen characters. Names and vignettes from their lives are put on about 50-100 pieces of the game. Someone throws the ...more
Dec 17, 2013 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
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Disturbing is the word I would use to describe this book. Interwoven are the lives of six women, coping with different aspects of being. Described as feminist, womanist and the African experience in America. Alice Walker (the Color Purple) is a masterful storyteller.
May 31, 2013 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
Jan 28, 2014 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
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When I first finished this, I told my mom I never wanted to be more than 50 ft away from a copy of it, ever. She gave me ~8 paperback copies of it for my next birthday. It is one of my favorite gifts ever--I gave all but one of them away.
May 19, 2007 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
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
Teri Drake-Floyd
Jan 07, 2016 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 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book took me about 6 weeks to read. Even at 420 pages, it shouldn't have taken this long to finish. I enjoyed some parts of the book, but others made no sense to me. So many different people to keep up with and I was even more confused. Definitely not a quick read and I had to really focus on what I was reading. For example, I would get uninterested in the book after 15-20 minutes of reading which made it take even longer to read. ...more
Linda Robinson
Sep 06, 2009 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..."

Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have been raking my brain for words that would do this novel justice. There are none. It has provoked in me feelings of utter wonder that have managed to make my thoughts incoherent, immeasurable to the genius and absolute beauty that is this story.
Cherrelle Shelton
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lovely. I read this book when I was in my late teens and liked it. But it has a very different meaning now that I am a grown woman. I really enjoyed this novel the second time around.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I read this book so many years ago. Reading it again was like discovering what I already knew again. This is a beautiful and complicated story, a layered and complex story of love.
Dec 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1001-list-books
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
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure what genre to put this in. Kind of magic realism on one, level but not really.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, as far as the lyrical writing, the interwoven characters, and the light into perspectives of different people groups. It was confusing in the way it jumped around characters and keeping them all straight and the plot semi-coherent was challenging. I couldn't decide at the end if it was beautiful or just an interesting story collection (which is really more how it felt). I found
Betsy Curlin
Oct 01, 2012 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. ...more
Jul 23, 2008 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 17, 2009 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!
Apr 20, 2011 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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Page count missing 5 13 Oct 17, 2019 09:25AM  
Reading 1001: The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker 1 11 Jun 17, 2019 08:05PM  
Greeetings from LA 1 4 Sep 28, 2009 05:13PM  
Hello from Sandra 1 6 Sep 27, 2009 08:16PM  
Hello from Middle East 1 6 Sep 26, 2009 03:35PM  
Hello, I`m newbie 1 5 Sep 25, 2009 12:40PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Mama Day
  • Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
  • Tar Baby
  • The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, and The Prince of Tides: Three Classic Novels in One Collection
  • 1984
  • The Book of Not (Nervous Conditions, #2)
  • Desert Dawn
  • Sister, Sister
  • Jazz (Beloved Trilogy, #2)
  • Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis
  • Moo
  • Cut and Run
  • Fly Away Home
  • The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning
  • La Deuxième Femme
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (Great Illustrated Classics)
  • Song of Solomon
  • The District Attorney (Lettie Portman, #1)
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

The Color Purple Collection (3 books)
  • The Color Purple
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
32 likes · 10 comments
“I'm mad about the waste that happens when people who love each other can't even bring themselves to talk.” 138 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.” 106 likes
More quotes…