Private Altars

Katherine Mosby (1995)

My favorite book of the year was one whose characters stayed with me long after I’d turned the last page. Southern Gothic in tone and set in the 1920s, Private Altars tells the story of a Yankee woman whose intelligence and independence are seen as eccentricities in the rural community she has moved to. Abandoned by her husband, she teaches her two children to make the most of their imaginations. They are observed by an outsider, a youngster who has recently moved to the area and is fascinated by Vienna Daniels and her family. The rapport between the children reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird. The most striking element of this book is the author’s amazing use of language, words and poetic turns of phrase that make you stop to reread them and days later, turn back and read them again.


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