When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she's directed, her mother gets described as a "tap-dancing child abuser." Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood may call to mind Prince of Tides in its unearthing of family darkness; in its unforgettable heroines and irrepressible humor and female loyalty, it echoes Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
Carrying echoes of both Fannie Flagg and Pat Conroy, Wells's second novel continues the story of Siddalee Walker, introduced in Little Altars Everywhere (1992). When Sidda asks her mother, the aging belle Vivi, for help in researching women's friendships, Vivi sends her daughter a scrapbook. From this artifact of Vivi's own lifelong friendship with three women collectively known as "the Ya-Ya's," and from Sidda's response to it, a story unfolds regarding a dark period in Vivi and Sidda's past that plagues their present relationship. While anecdotes about the Ya-Ya's (such as the riotous scene at a Shirley Temple look-alike contest) are often very amusing, the narrative is beset by superficial characterization and forced colloquialisms. Told through several narrative vehicles and traveling through space and time from Depression-era Louisiana to present-day Seattle, this novel attempts to wed a folksy homespun tale to a soul-searching examination of conscience. But while Wells's ambition is admirable and her talent undeniable, she never quite makes this difficult marriage work. $50,000 ad/promo; author tour. FYI: HarperPerennial will publish the paperback edition of Little Altars Everywhere, which won the Western States Book Award, in May.
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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood