Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

4.3 134
by Rebecca Wells

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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

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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.

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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)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Ya-Ya Series , #1
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850L (what's this?)
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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.

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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.

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The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 134 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
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
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
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 !!
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No....... you dont like me?
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