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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)