Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

4.3 135
by Rebecca Wells
     
 

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“A big, blowzy romp through the rainbow eccentricities of three generations of crazy bayou debutantes.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A very entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between mother and daughter.”
Washington Post

“Mary McCarthy, Anne

Overview

“A big, blowzy romp through the rainbow eccentricities of three generations of crazy bayou debutantes.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A very entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between mother and daughter.”
Washington Post

“Mary McCarthy, Anne Rivers Siddons, and a host of others have portrayed the power and value of female friendships, but no one has done it with more grace, charm, talent, and power than Rebecca Wells.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The incomparable #1 New York Times bestseller—a book that reigned at the top of the list for an remarkable sixty-eight weeks—Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a classic of Southern women’s fiction to be read and reread over and over again. A poignant, funny, outrageous, and wise novel about a lifetime friendship between four Southern women, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood brilliantly explores the bonds of female friendship, the often-rocky relationship between mothers and daughters, and the healing power of humor and love, in a story as fresh and uplifting as when it was first published a decade and a half ago. If you haven’t yet met the Ya-Yas, what are you waiting for?

Editorial Reviews

bn.com editor

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.
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.
Bookpage
Rarely have the secrets of female friendship been better revealed.
Philadelphia Inquirer
. . she's perfect. Even for those who have read the books, the audios are worth listening to.
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.
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061743368
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Series:
Ya-Ya Series , #1
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
48,561
Lexile:
850L (what's this?)
File size:
815 KB

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.

What People are saying about this

Tom Robbins
This is a sweet and sad...dance of life...as performed by a bevy of unforgettable Southern belles...Poignantly coo-coo, the Ya-Yas...will prance, prick, ponder, and party their way into your future affections.

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
An island near Seattle, Washington
Date of Birth:
1952
Place of Birth:
Alexandria, Louisiana
Education:
B.A., Louisiana State University; Graduate work, Louisiana State University and Naropa Institute
Website:
http://www.ya-ya.com

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The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood 4.3 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 136 reviews.
BANCHEE_READS More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! I would recomend reading
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was amazingly truthful. Its beautiful and haunting all in one. I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the movie but then read the book it is so much more detailed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth every star!
Aimee_Leon More than 1 year ago
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.
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
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.
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
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!"
mrsutton25 More than 1 year ago
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.
xoxo_leigh More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 !!
Anonymous 18 days ago
sandrabrazier 3 months ago
Sidalee Walker is confused. She is about to be married, but is it what she wants? Her mom is not talking to her, but as she reaches out to her, her mother sends her the memory book called THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD. This is the memory book about the close friendship between Sidda's mother and her three life-long friends growing up in Louisiana. In reading the book, Sidda not only learns about her mother's childhood and adolescence, but also about female friendships and about dealing with disappointment and tragedy. This book is both funny and poignant, as Sidda learns about life and love and friendship through learning about her mother's life. The characters are well-defined, realistic, and vividly portrayed, resulting in a joyous story of life and love and loss.
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No....... you dont like me?
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