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In a dramatic story reminiscent of Harper Lee and Truman Capote, hailed by Larry McMurtry as “a beautiful first novel,” a small southern town in the 1920s becomes the stage for a woman’s poignant struggle to provide her life with more meaning and charm than fate has apportioned her.

Arriving in Winsville with a firm grasp of the classics, four steamer trunks of books, a bust of Quintilian, and shoes and gloves for different times of day, Vienna Daniels creates a stir in a town uncomfortable with difference. “She’s not crazy, she’s just educated,” Dr. Barstow pronounces to Vienna’s husband, Willard, who is plainly disappointed with the patrician bride he managed to marry. When the marriage fails and Willard abandons her, Vienna and her two children have nothing more than the magic of their own imaginations to parlay an accidental and unenviable situation into one that captivates the town.

Private Altars is a compelling story about the nature of consequence — the way in which meaningless acts lead to irreversible situations, and the difficult compromise between the demands of society and the desires of the individual. Trapped in the wrong place and time, Vienna Daniels’ attempt to transcend her circumstance unfolds into a haunting and unforgettable story.