Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

( 199 )

Overview

When Vivi and Siddalee Walker, an unforgettable mother-daughter team, get into a savage fight over a New York Times article that refers to Vivi as a 'tap-dancing child abuser,' the Ya-Yas, sashay in and conspire to bring everyone back together. In 1932, Vivi and the Ya-Yas were disqualified from a Shirley Temple Look-Alike Contest for unladylike behavior. Sixty years later, they're 'bucking 70' and still making waves. With passion and a rare gift for language, Rebecca Wells moves from present to past, unraveling ...
See more details below
Paperback
$11.90
BN.com price
(Save 14%)$13.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (168) from $1.99   
  • New (14) from $1.99   
  • Used (154) from $1.99   
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Overview

When Vivi and Siddalee Walker, an unforgettable mother-daughter team, get into a savage fight over a New York Times article that refers to Vivi as a 'tap-dancing child abuser,' the Ya-Yas, sashay in and conspire to bring everyone back together. In 1932, Vivi and the Ya-Yas were disqualified from a Shirley Temple Look-Alike Contest for unladylike behavior. Sixty years later, they're 'bucking 70' and still making waves. With passion and a rare gift for language, Rebecca Wells moves from present to past, unraveling Vivi's life, her enduring friendships with the Ya-Yas, and the reverberations on Siddalee. The collective power of the Ya-Yas, each of them totally individual and authentic, permeates this story of a tribe of Louisiana wild women who are impossible to tame.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The Barnes & Noble Review
A powerfully literate yet thoroughly engaging and accessible novel, this story of a close-knit society of southern women has become a modern cult classic bolstered by author Rebecca Wells's abiltity to transcend standard-issue chick lit with bold and unique characters and a tale that digs deeply into the complex bonds of family.

The entangled story of actress Siddalee Walker, her mother Vivi, and Vivi's group of pals -- the Ya-Yas -- gets off to a heated start when Sidda's disparaging remarks about her mother run in the New York Times. Vivi declares all-out war and immediately cuts Sidda out of her will, pushes a libel suit, and forbids the other septuagenarian Ya-Ya's to speak to Sidda ever again. Convinced she doesn't "know how to love," a shaken Sidda postpones her upcoming wedding and flees to a remote Washington cabin. Suddenly concerned about her daughter, Vivi convenes an emergency Ya-Ya council and at last decides to reveal her jealously guarded past to Sidda through her treasured scrapbook, "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."

The scrapbook spans Ya-Ya history, documenting among other things the hilarious Shirley Temple Look-Alike Contest that first united the four women in a conspiracy against polite society; the secret history and initiation rites of the group; a trip to Atlanta to attend the premier of Gone With The Wind; and Vivi's first and greatest love. It also sheds light on Vivi's reaction to the constraints of motherhood and the alcoholism, self-medication, and spiritual confusion that eventually led to a complete nervous breakdown. Also buried in the book is the key that unlocks Sidda's childhood memory of a lost lesson of love and brings her to a new understanding of her family's shared triumphs and tragedies.

Much more universal in its appeal than the "women's book" some reviewers have been tempted to call it (according to Wells, "It's a book for women -- and smart men"), The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood manages with passion, humor, and an irrepressible gift for language to somehow show readers of all backgrounds a mirror-perfect reflection of their own life experiences. (Greg Marrs)

Washington Post
A very entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between mother and daughter.
Portland Oregonian
An insightful, delicious novel.
Columbus Dispatch
One heck of a rollicking good read...You'll laugh. You'll cry. But you'll mostly want to laugh and offer Wells a hearty merci.
New Orleans Times-Picayune
. . .Wells' voice is uniquely her own, funny and generous and full of love and heartbreak, in that grand Louisiana literary tradition of transforming family secrets into great stories.
Oregonian
An insightful, delicious novel.
Bookpage
Rarely have the secrets of female friendship been better revealed.
Washington Post
A very entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between mother and daughter.
Philadelphia Inquirer
. . she's perfect. Even for those who have read the books, the audios are worth listening to.
Columbus Dispatch
One heck of a rollicking good read...You'll laugh. You'll cry. But you'll mostly want to laugh and offer Wells a hearty merci.
Washington Post
A very entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between mother and daughter.
New Orleans Times-Picayune
. . .Wells' voice is uniquely her own, funny and generous and full of love and heartbreak, in that grand Louisiana literary tradition of transforming family secrets into great stories.
Portland Oregonian
An insightful, delicious novel.
Oregonian
An insightful, delicious novel.
Columbus Dispatch
One heck of a rollicking good read...You'll laugh. You'll cry. But you'll mostly want to laugh and offer Wells a hearty merci.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Carrying echoes of both Fannie Flagg and Pat Conroy, Wells's second novel continues the story of Siddalee Walker, introduced in Little Altars Everywhere. 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' ambition is admirable and her talent undeniable, she never quite makes this difficult marriage work.
Library Journal
Judith Ivey's portrayal of the eccentric characters in this popular novel, now a major motion picture, could certainly be described as "divine." The work, a companion to Wells's Little Altars Everywhere, has become a cult classic, spawning over 80 "Ya-Ya chapter groups" worldwide. The story begins with theater director Siddalee Walker being effectively disowned by her mother, Vivi, after some of Siddalee's darker childhood memories appear in a New York Times article. Devastated by Vivi's rejection, Siddalee postpones her wedding and retreats to a remote cabin in Washington State. Although Vivi will not speak to Siddalee, she does send her the "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," a scrapbook chronicling the girlhood adventures of Vivi and her three best friends (a.k.a. the Ya-Ya's). Through her examination of the scrapbook, Siddalee gains a deeper understanding of her mother and herself. Wells's colorful descriptions of small-town life in Louisiana in the 1930s and 1940s, coupled with Ivey's outstanding performance on both programs, make this an excellent pick for popular fiction collections.-Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When a reporter uses upcoming theatrical director Siddalee Walker's description of her mother, Vivi, as a "tap-dancing child abuser," Vivi casts her daughter out of her life. Sidda, feeling unloved and unlovable, postpones her wedding and retreats to Washington State's Olympic Peninsula to try to understand why she cannot sustain emotional relationships. Vivi's three lifelong friends (known collectively as the "Ya-Yas") persuade her to send Sidda the scrapbook filled with mementos of Vivi's life in the small Central Louisiana town where she grew up, married, and raised her family. Paging through the scrapbook, Sidda begins to glimpse the dark shadows in her mother's life.

The narrative deftly switches between first- and third-person viewpoints, from Vivi's past as revealed in the scrapbook to Sidda's childhood guilt about failing her mother. Wells (Little Altars Everywhere) demonstrates that with knowledge can come forgiveness. She has written an entertaining and engrossing novel filled with humor and heartbreak. Readers will envy Vivi her Ya-Ya "sisters" and Sidda, her lover, who is one of the most appealing men to be found in recent mainstream fiction. This entirely satisfactory novel belongs in public libraries of all sizes. -- Nancy Pearl, Washington Center for the Book, Seattle

New Orleans Times-Picayune
. . .Wells' voice is uniquely her own, funny and generous and full of love and heartbreak, in that grand Louisiana literary tradition of transforming family secrets into great stories.
Bookpage
Rarely have the secrets of female friendship been better revealed.
New OrlTimes-Picayune
. . .Wells' voice is uniquely her own, funny and generous and full of love and heartbreak, in that grand Louisiana literary tradition of transforming family secrets into great stories.
Times-Picayune N. Orl. Times Picayune
. . .Wells' voice is uniquely her own, funny and generous and full of love and heartbreak, in that grand Louisiana literary tradition of transforming family secrets into great stories.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060759957
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/7/2004
  • Series: The Ya-Ya Series
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 136,732
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Wells

Writer, actor, and playwright Rebecca Wells is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Ya-Yas in Bloom, Little Altars Everywhere, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which was made into a feature film. A native of Louisiana, she now lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

Biography

In 1992, a Louisiana-born playwright and actress introduced the world to a clan of quirky Southerners that instantly made an indelible imprint on readers all over the country. Little Altars Everywhere was the warm and witty story of the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana, and it established Rebecca Wells as one of the most beloved writers in contemporary literature. She solidified that position further with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood in 1996. Now, nearly ten years later, Wells is giving her avid fans yet another reason to celebrate.

Wells originally made waves as an acclaimed playwright. After a childhood spent indulging in the Southern tradition of verbal story-telling, Wells decided to develop her innate skill for yarn-spinning by penning plays after moving to New York City to pursue a career as a stage actor.

It was not until the early '90s that Wells decided to try her hand at a novel. While telling the larger story of the dysfunctional Walkers, Little Altars Everywhere chiefly focused on a young girl named Siddalee, a character which author Andrew Ward once described as "one of the sharpest little chatterboxes since Huckleberry Finn." Little Altars became both a critical favorite and a bestseller, and paved the way for the smashingly successful Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which continued Siddalee's story and revealed her mother Vivi's affiliation with an exuberant society of Southern women. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood not only wowed critics across the country, but it hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and inspired a cult-like following of readers to rival Wells's fictional sisterhood.

Unfortunately, during the years following the release of Wells's most beloved novel, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness that no doubt slowed her productivity. "Before I started treatment, on my weakest days, I was unable to lift my hands to type," she says on her web site. "My husband would hold a tape recorder for me so I could talk scenes that were in my imagination. On some days, I could not walk. My husband would lift me out of my wheelchair and into my writing chair. I could only write about 20 minutes, always at night. I learned to humble myself to limitations of energy, and I learned to be grateful that even though my body was so sick, my imagination was still very much alive. I consider Ya-Yas in Bloom to be my ‘miracle baby.'"

Indeed, her legion of fans will agree that her latest release is nothing short of miraculous. After nearly a decade since the release of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells has finally produced the third installment of her popular series. Ya-Yas in Bloom reaches further back than either of her previous novels, examining the origins of the Ya-Ya sisterhood in the 1930s through various narrators and a family album-like format. Wells's devoted followers will surely find much to enjoy in what the author describes as a "more tender book" than her last two works. "Illness -- and the love and forgiveness I have been given have taught me about the need for Tenderness," she says. "Now I know more deeply that we all need more compassion and kindness than this fast, consumer-driven world encourages. Life is not easy. It is filled with pain. It is also filled with joy and moments of ...[a]nd all of a sudden, you realize how beautiful this raggedy life really is."

Wells's positive outlook should only glow more brightly as her health continues to improve. As for the Ya-Yas, Wells is happy to report, "Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I definitely hope to write more Ya-Ya books. The universe of the Ya-Yas has a million tales, and somebody has to tell them!"

Good To Know

While attending the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Wells studied language and consciousness with legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Writing is not the only thing that this author takes seriously. In 1982, she formed a chapter of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament in Seattle, Washington.

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Wells:

"Flowers heal me. Tulips make me happy. I keep myself surrounded by them as soon as they start coming to the island from Canada, and after that when they come from the fields in La Connor, not far from where I live. When their season is over, I surround myself with dahlias from my friend Tami's garden."

"I believe that we are given strength and help from a power much larger than ourselves. I believe if I humble myself that this power will come through me, and help me create work that is bigger than I would have ever been able to have done alone. I believe that illness has led me to a life of gratitude, so I consider Lyme disease at this point in my life to be a blessing in disguise."

"I value humor, kindness, and the ability to tell a good story far more than money, status, or the kind of car someone drives."

"I dislike the second Bush administration's abuse of power. I abhor his administration's waging of war, and the systematic design to make the rich richer and the poor poorer."

"I love being with my husband and family, walking outside, standing in La Luz de La Luna in her ever-changing stages, playing with my dog, singing, dancing, having dinner with friends, playing word games in the parlor, thrilling at our sheep eating alfalfa out of my hand, going to the island farmer's market on Saturdays. I love being told by my doctors that there is every reason to believe that I will get ‘better and better' from Lyme disease. I love that I am privileged enough to have been diagnosed and treated for the fastest growing vector-born bacterial disease in this country."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      An island near Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alexandria, Louisiana
    1. Education:
      B.A., Louisiana State University; Graduate work, Louisiana State University and Naropa Institute
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Tap-dancing child abuser. That's what The Sunday New York Times from March 8, 1993, had called Vivi. The pages of the week-old Leisure Arts section lay scattered on the floor next to Sidda as she curled up in the bed, covers pulled tightly around her, portable phone on the pillow next to her head.

There had been no sign the theater critic would go for blood. Roberta Lydell had been so chummy, so sisterly-seeming during the interview that Sidda had felt she'd made a new girlfriend. After all, in her earlier review, Roberta had already proclaimed the production of Women on the Cusp, which Sidda had directed at Lincoln Center, to be "a miraculous event in American theater." With subtle finesse, the journalist had lulled Sidda into a cozy false sense of intimacy as she pumped her for personal information.

As Sidda lay in the bed, her cocker spaniel, Hueylene, crawled into the crook formed by her knees. For the past week, the cocker had been the only company Sidda had wanted. Not Connor McGill, her fianc‚. Not friends, not colleagues. Just the dog she'd named in honor of Huey Long.

She stared at the phone. Her relationship with her mother had never been smooth, but this latest episode was disastrous. For the umpteenth time that week, Sidda punched in the number of her parents' home at Pecan Grove. For the first time, she actually let it ring through.

At the sound of Vivi's hello, Sidda's stomach began to cramp.

"Mama? It's me."

Without hesitation, Vivi hung up.

Sidda punched automatic redial. Vivi picked up again, but did not speak.

"Mama, I know you're there. Please don't hang up. I'm so sorry this all happened. I'm really reallysorry. I--"

"There is nothing you can say or do to make me forgive you," Vivi said. "You are dead to me. You have killed me. Now I am killing you."

Sidda sat up in bed and tried to catch her breath.

"Mother, I did not mean for any of this to take place. The woman who interviewed me--"

"I have cut you out of my will. Do not be surprised if I sue you for libel. There are no photographs left of you on any of my walls. Do not--"

Sidda could see her mother's face, red with anger. She could see how her veins showed lavender underneath her light skin.

"Mama, please. I cannot control The New York Times. Did you read the whole thing? I said, 'My mother, Vivi Abbott Walker, is one of the most charming people in the world.'"

"'Charming wounded.' You said: 'My mother is one of the most charming wounded people in the world. And she is also the most dangerous.' I have it here in black-and-white, Siddalee."

"Did you read the part where I credited you for my creativity? Where I said, 'My creativity comes in a direct flow from my mother, like the Tabasco she used to spice up our baby bottles.' Mama, they ate it up when I talked about how you'd put on your tap shoes and dance for us while you fed us in our high chairs. They loved it."

"You lying little bitch. They loved it when you said: 'My mother comes from the old Southern school of child rearing where a belt across a child's bare skin was how you got your point across.'"

Sidda sucked in her breath.

"They loved it," Vivi continued, "when they read: 'Siddalee Walker, articulate, brilliant director of the hit show Women on the Cusp, is no stranger to family cruelty. As the battered child of a tap-dancing child abuser of a mother, she brings to her directing the rare and touching equipoise between personal involvement and professional detachment that is the mark of theatrical genius.'

"'Battered child!' This is shit! This is pure character-defaming shit from the most hideous child imaginable!"

Sidda could not breathe. She raised her thumb to her mouth and bit the skin around the nail, something she had not done since she was ten years old. She wondered where she'd put the Xanax.

"Mama, I never meant to hurt you. Many of those words I never even uttered to that damn journalist. I swear, I--"

"You Goddamn self-centered liar! It's no Goddamn wonder every relationship you have falls apart. You know nothing about love. You have a cruel soul. God help Connor McGill. He would have to be a fool to marry you."

Sidda got out of bed, her whole body shaking. She walked to the window of her twenty-second-floor apartment in Manhattan Plaza. From where she stood, she could see the Hudson River. It made her think of the Garnet River in Central Louisiana, and how red its water flowed.

Mama, you bitch, she thought. You devouring, melodramatic bitch. When she spoke, her voice was steely, controlled.

"What I said was not exactly a lie, Mother. Or have you forgotten the feel of the belt in your hand?"

Sidda could hear Vivi's sharp intake of breath. When Vivi spoke, her voice had dropped into a lower register.

"My love was a privilege that you abused. I have withdrawn that privilege. You are out of my heart. You are banished to the outer reaches. I wish you nothing but unending guilt."

Sidda heard the dial tone. She knew her mother had broken the connection. But she could not lower the phone from her ear. She stood frozen in place, the sounds of midtown Manhattan down below, the cold March light of the city fading around her.

After years of directing plays in regional theaters from Alaska to Florida, after numerous Off-Off-Broadway productions, Sidda had been ready for the success of Women on the Cusp. When the play finally opened at Lincoln Center that February, it was to unanimous golden reviews. At the age of forty, Sidda was eager to bask in the light of recognition. She had worked on the play with the playwright, May Sorenson, since the play's first reading at the Seattle Rep, May's home turf. She'd directed not only the Seattle premiere, but productions in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Connor had designed the sets, and one of her best buddies, Wade Coenen, had done the costumes. The four of them had been a team for years, and Sidda had been thrilled to sit back with her pals and soak up some glory.

Roberta Lydell's initial review of the play had fawned over Sidda's work:

Siddalee Walker has directed May Sorenson's tour de force about mothers and daughters with gutsiness and compassion. In Walker's hands, what could have turned maudlin and overly comic is instead stunning, heartbreaking, and deeply funny. Walker has heard the purest tones of Sorenson's rollicking, complex, sad, witty play, and has shaped these tones into a production that is more a force of nature than a stage production. The family--its secrets, its murders, and its miraculous buoyancy--is alive and well at Lincoln Center. The American theater has both May Sorenson and Siddalee Walker to thank for it.

How could Sidda have known, a month later, that Roberta Lydell would snake her way into her psyche, extracting information that Sidda normally shared with only her therapist and best friends?

After the offending profile, Vivi and Shep, Sidda's father, and the rest of her family canceled their block of tickets to the play. Sidda set aside the elaborate plans she'd made for their visit. She often dreamed of Vivi crying. Dreams from which she, herself, woke crying. Sidda did not hear from her brother Little Shep, or her sister, Lulu. She heard nothing from her father. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Copyright © by Rebecca Wells. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
A Novel

Chapter One



Tap-dancing child abuser. That's what the Sunday New York Times from March 8, 1993, had called Vivi. The pages of the week-old Leisure Arts section lay scattered on the floor next to Sidda as she curled up in the bed, covers pulled tightly around her, portable phone on the pillow next to her head.

There had been no sign the theater critic would go for blood. Roberta Lydell had been so chummy, so sisterly-seeming during the interview that Sidda had felt she'd made a new girlfriend. After all, in her earlier review, Roberta had already proclaimed the production of Women on the Cusp, which Sidda had directed at Lincoln Center, to be "a miraculous event in American theater." With subtle finesse, the journalist had lulled Sidda into a cozy false sense of intimacy as she pumped her for personal information.

As Sidda lay in the bed, her cocker spaniel, Hueylene, crawled into the crook formed by her knees. For the past week, the cocker had been the only company Sidda had wanted. Not Connor McGill, her fiancé. Not friends, not colleagues. Just the dog she'd named in honor of Huey Long.

She stared at the phone. Her relationship with her mother had never been smooth, but this latest episode was disastrous. For the umpteenth time that week, Sidda punched in the number of her parents' home at Pecan Grove. For the first time, she actually let it ring through.

At the sound of Vivi's hello, Sidda's stomach began to cramp.

"Mama? It's me."

Without hesitation, Vivi hung up.

Sidda punched automatic redial. Vivi picked up again, but did not speak.

"Mama, I know you're there. Please don't hang up. I'm so sorry this all happened. I'm really, really sorry. I -- "

"There is nothing you can say or do to make me forgive you," Vivi said. "You are dead to me. You have killed me. Now I am killing you."

Sidda sat up in bed and tried to catch her breath.

"Mother, I did not mean for any of this to take place. The woman who interviewed me -- "

"I have cut you out of my will. Do not be surprised if I sue you for libel. There are no photographs left of you on any of my walls. Do not -- "

Sidda could see her mother's face, red with anger. She could see how her veins showed lavender underneath her light skin.

"Mama, please. I cannot control The New York Times. Did you read the whole thing? I said, 'My mother, Vivi Abbott Walker, is one of the most charming people in the world.'"

"'Charming wounded.' You said: 'My mother is one of the most charming wounded people in the world. And she is also the most dangerous.' I have it here in black-and-white, Siddalee."

"Did you read the part where I credited you for my creativity? Where I said, 'My creativity comes in a direct flow from my mother, like the Tabasco she used to spice up our baby bottles.' Mama, they ate it up when I talked about how you'd put on your tap shoes and dance for us while you fed us in our high chairs. They loved it."

"You lying little bitch. They loved it when you said: 'My mother comes from the old Southern school of child rearing where a belt across a child's bare skin was how you got your point across.'"

Sidda sucked in her breath.

"They loved it," Vivi continued, "when they read: 'Siddalee Walker, articulate, brilliant director of the hit show Women on the Cusp, is no stranger to family cruelty. As the battered child of a tap-dancing child abuser of a mother, she brings to her directing the rare and touching equipoise between personal involvement and professional detachment that is the mark of theatrical genius.'

"'Battered child'! This is shit! This is pure character-defaming shit from the most hideous child imaginable!"

Sidda could not breathe. She raised her thumb to her mouth and bit the skin around the nail, something she had not done since she was ten years old. She wondered where she'd put the Xanax.

"Mama, I never meant to hurt you. Many of those words I never even uttered to that damn journalist. I swear, I -- "

"You Goddamn self-centered liar! It's no Goddamn wonder every relationship you have falls apart. You know nothing about love. You have a cruel soul. God help Connor McGill. He would have to be a fool to marry you."

Sidda got out of bed, her whole body shaking. She walked to the window of her twenty-second-floor apartment in Manhattan Plaza. From where she stood, she could see the Hudson River. It made her think of the Garnet River in Central Louisiana, and how red its water flowed.

Mama, you bitch, she thought. You devouring, melodramatic bitch. When she spoke, her voice was steely, controlled.

"What I said was not exactly a lie, Mother. Or have you forgotten the feel of the belt in your hand?"

Sidda could hear Vivi's sharp intake of breath. When Vivi spoke, her voice had dropped into a lower register.

"My love was a privilege that you abused. I have withdrawn that privilege. You are out of my heart. You are banished to the outer reaches. I wish you nothing but unending guilt."

Sidda heard the dial tone. She knew her mother had broken the connection. But she could not lower the phone from her ear. She stood frozen in place, the sounds of midtown Manhattan down below, the cold March light of the city fading around her.

After years of directing plays in regional theaters from Alaska to Florida, after numerous Off-Off-Broadway productions, Sidda had been ready for the success of Women on the Cusp. When the play finally opened at Lincoln Center that February, it was to unanimous golden reviews...

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
A Novel
. Copyright © by Rebecca Wells. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

"Rebecca Wells's new novel is a big, blowzy romp through the rainbow eccentricities of three generations of crazy bayou debutantes trying to survive marriage, motherhood and pain, relying always on their love for each other. It is a novel of wide reach and lots of colors: fun in a breathless sort of way. Vivi is one of the best characters in any novel you'll read this summer."
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Plot Summary

Sidda is a girl again in the hot heart of Louisiana, the bayou world of Catholic saints and voodoo queens. She walks barefoot into the humid night, moonlight on her freckled shoulders. Near a huge, live oak tree on the edge of her father's cotton fields, Sidda looks up into the sky. In the crook of the crescent moon sits the Holy Lady, with strong muscles and a merciful heart. She kicks her splendid legs like the moon is her swing and the sky, her front porch. She waves down at Sidda like she has just spotted an old buddy. Sidda stands in the moonlight and lets the Blessed Mother love every hair on her six-year-old head. Tenderness flows down from the moon and up from the earth. For one fleeting, luminous moment, Sidda Walker knows there has never been a time she has not been loved.

When Siddalee and Vivi Walker, an utterly original mother-daughter team, get into a savage fight over a New York Times article that refers to Vivi as a "tap-dancing child abuser," the fall-out is felt from Louisiana to New York to Seattle. Siddalee, a successful theatre director with a huge hit on her hands, panics and postpones her upcoming wedding to her lover and friend Connor McGill. But Vivi's intrepid gang of life-long girlfriends, the Ya-Yas, sashay in and conspire to bring everyone back together.

In 1932, Vivi and the Ya-Yas were disqualified from a Shirley Temple Look-Alike Contest for unladylike behavior. Sixty years later, they're "bucking seventy," and still making waves. They persuade Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of girlhood momentos entitled "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."

Sidda retreats to a cabin on Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, tormented by fear and uncertainty about the future, and intent on discovering a key to the tangle of anger and tenderness she feels toward her mother. But the album reveals more questions than answers, and leads Sidda to encounter the unknowable mystery of life and the legacy of imperfect love.

With passion and a rare gift of language, Rebecca Wells moves from present to past, unraveling Vivi's life, her enduring friendships with the Ya-Yas, and the reverberations on Siddalee. The collective power of the Ya-Yas, each of them totally individual and authentic, permeates this story of a tribe of Louisiana wild women impossible to tame.

Questions for Discussion
1. Wells uses three quotations as epigraphs for the novel. Why might she have chosen the first two, which address the need for spiritual growth and love? What connection, might there be between the "unknowable" that sits there "licking its chops" and our need for spiritual growth and love?

2. While Vivi was not a perfect mother, Wells does not blame her as a mother. Discuss the concept of the "good enough" mother and what acceptance of that concept means to a woman's acceptance of self.

3. One of the dominant motifs in the novel focuses on the contrast between the spirit and the law. Sister Solange and Sister Fermin take very different approaches to teaching Vivi. The Ya-Yas and Buggy have very different ideas as to what makes a statue of the Virgin Mary beautiful. The Ya-Yas and the Catholic Church have very different ideas as to where Genevieve can be buried. And, on one occasion, Vivi thinks that "Sometimes higher laws than Thornton's must be obeyed." To what higher laws is Vivi referring? Do those higher laws have any connection with the conflict that Wells seems to see between the spirit and the law?

4. Religious imagery abounds in the novel. The young Ya-Yas prick their fingers and drink each other's blood and experience a communion. Sidda baptizes herself. Why might Wells rely so heavily on religious imagery to describe everyday experiences?

5. One of the themes of the novel is the necessity of and the difficulty of personal growth. For instance, Sidda must remind herself and be reminded that she is a "grown up." Which characters in the novel experience personal growth? What obstacles must those characters overcome in order to grow? How do those characters that grow overcome the obstacles that stand in their way?

6. Is there any special significance that can be attached to the fact that Wells ends her novel with a marriage?

7. Vivi is a tangled, charismatic, and haunted character. How much does the culture Vivi grew up in influence her? Does a woman face special problems when she grows up in the South during the 1940's? Look closely at Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind to see how it influenced Vivi's idea of who she was. In what way might "being a lady" pose problems for Vivi, her friends, and their daughters?

8. Why does Wells switch back and forth between the present (Sidda's current life) and the past (Vivi's youth and early motherhood)? What might Wells be suggesting about mothers and daughters?

9. "The Holy Lady" appears at the beginning and at the end of the novel. Discuss her presence in the book and what Wells might be suggesting with such inclusions.

10. What role does humor serve throughout the novel? Discuss how closely Wells weaves humor and pathos.

About the Author: Rebecca Wells, a Louisiana native, is an author, actor and playwright. Her works for the stage include Splittin' Hairs and Gloria Duplex, for which she created the lead roles.

She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Western States Book Award for her first novel, Little Altars Everywhere.

She tours a one-woman show based on Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Wells lives on an island near Seattle, Washington.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 199 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(125)

4 Star

(40)

3 Star

(23)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(4)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 199 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyable read

    The companion of "Little Altars Everywhere," this book takes the vantage of the adult Sidda. Although she's become successful on the outside, the inside still trembles at the damage inflicted by her mother Vivi while growing up.
    In an attempt to help her daughter understand - and possibly restore their terribly damaged relationship - Vivi sends Sidda a scrapbook filled with "Ya-Ya-rabilia." As Sidda flips through the book and examines each item, the voices of Vivi and the other Ya-Yas explain the context which the item represents. Quickly, Sidda realizes that her mother was once young and full of hopes, which were dashed by her dour parents and a tragic death.
    If you aren't a big fan of flashbacks, this might not be the book for you. However, Wells seems to do a good job, moving seamlessly from past to present and back. I highly recommend giving it a try!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    Great!

    This is a great book! I would recomend reading

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

    Great!

    I thought this book was amazingly truthful. Its beautiful and haunting all in one. I loved it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2008

    The Best Book Ever

    I first read this book when I was about 16 year old and it will always be a part of me. It's an incredible story of the bond between friends and family written in such a way that as it's read the reader becomes a part themself. I recommend this book to everyone. It is an amazing story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    Amazing

    Loved the movie but then read the book it is so much more detailed

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    Worth every star!

    Worth every star!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    THIS STORY SO WAS DIVINE.

    Ooohh!..I loved Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. The novel was so sweet, heart felt, and fabulous. The story is from Sidda's point of view than swoops over to Vivi's point with the Ya-Ya gang in between. All of the senses of the nostalgic feeling is shown & shared in this tale that leaves you yearning for your childhood days that were filled with joy,laughter, friendship, and adventure & tears. Anyone could relate to this novel, whether mother or daughter. This is the first novel of Rebecca Wells that I've read and I enjoyed it alot. So I'm definitely going to read her other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 25, 2010

    You will like it!

    A book about four women who are the best of friends growing up (which makes them Ya Yas) and a petite ya ya (one of their daughters). The daughter is gathering information on the Ya Yas and their lives. I thought this book was really good, a nice story. It was all of the emotions you could hope for- happy, sad and a book about unconditional friendship. You will cry and you will laugh and you will want to become a Ya Ya! What a great story of friendship- share it with a friend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 28, 2010

    Sweet, Sappy, Read

    A fun, easy, feel-good read. Although it has themes of coming to terms with childhood issues, complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, and forgiveness, this is the kind of book that makes you want to celebrate relationships between women, even if it's more myth and wishful thinking than necessarily realized in real life. I think it taps into the longing that women feel for their childhood female friends, sometimes replicated in adulthood, but never quite with the same, sweet loyalty and bonding of young girls, probably pre-middle school. I read this book a few years ago, and remember that after it came out, it was popular to go on-line and "register" for a "ya ya sisterhood" name! Mine was "Countess Sassy Mouth!"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    MUST READ!

    Beautifully well written story of the love between mother and daughter, the bonds of true friendship, and the lengths people go to find themselves. The characters will remain in your heart long after you read the last page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Must read...'nuff said!

    Make time for it because you won't be able to put it down! Amazing vivi-vidid mix of humor, life-long friendship, love, understanding and a 'lil mix of Louisiana soul. Story of a lost time, an age of innocence I'm jealous I will never experience. Next stop rent movie...hope its half as magical!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2008

    Great Book and Great Movie !! Must Read/Must See !!

    i can't wait to read the book after seeing the movie. Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn did an outstanding job, along with the rest of the cast, bringing the characters from ms. wells book alive. they were so vibrant in the way they told the story, between present and past, to bring everyone together. it was the most heart warming film, and it showed how friendships can stick together, even after 70 years. the way everyone just came together, it shows what love, compassion, and the true test of friendship and never ending love is all about. i absolutely loved the movie, i've done watched about 40 times, till i know it by heart !! i have to say that ms. wells, is an awesome writer, and hope to see more of her stuff, bought to the movies !! i recommend this DVD to anyone ! she also made you feel like you were part of the story too, because i laughed and cried, with the women in the story, as it was told. very moving !!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2000

    Down with Ya-Yas

    Warning: DO NOT BECOME A YA-YA! This book is filled with selfish, feeble, alcoholic women. THESE ARE NOT ROLE MODELS!!! Do NOT read this novel! Suburban women of America: consider yourself warned.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

    Sophie

    Her body presses against his and she moves her lips along with his.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

    Yoshigurl to person

    No....... you dont like me?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

    Shape 1

    Rubs yoshigirl. "U want to<_> do it?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

    Gtgtb

    Bbt

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2011

    Boring

    I would compare this to a B grade movie. The characters and relationships didn't feel true to life or compelling in the least. I won't read another book by this author.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2007

    Best book ever...

    I absolutely loved this book! i had to read it for my English class, and i fell in love with the book. I could not put it down! There were many laugh-out-loud moments, with all the vivid stories that were told. It's an awesome book and highly recommend you read it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Heartwarming good girl read

    I listened to this book on tape and thoroughly enjoyed the story, as well as the reader. It is a heartwarming story about the bonds of friendship and the bond of mother and daughter. I great girl read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 199 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)