The Ya-Ya sisters shimmy on and off stage in this disjointed follow-up to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Wells's bestselling novel about the singular friendship and escapades of four larger-than-life Southern women. The author is off to a good start with the tale of how Vivi, Teensy, Caro and Necie met as little girls in 1930, their spunk and liveliness a harbinger of things to come. But the focus on the Ya-Yas' early years soon wavers and the novel is all over the map-here a few tales about the grown-up Ya-Yas, like Vivi's run-in with her son's first-grade teacher, a pompous nun; there a story about Vivi's eldest daughter, Sidda, one of the so-called "Petites Ya-Yas," and her directorial debut at age eight at a Valentine's Day party. A chapter appears out of nowhere from the viewpoint of Myrtis Spevey, a contemporary of the original Ya-Yas, who is so excessively jealous and resentful of the friends that she comes off as a cartoon character. After a vexing 30-year leap, Myrtis's creepy, emotionally ill daughter, Edythe, takes over the narrative, kidnapping one of the Ya-Yas' grandchildren. What begins as a collection of haphazard but entertaining snippets from the Ya-Yas' lives suddenly bumps up against a sober story about a missing child and the lengths to which parents will go to protect their young. Readers may lose patience as even the loose family-album format fails to hold up, but Wells still charms when she focuses on the redemptive power of family love and the special bond that comes from genuine, long-lived friendship. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (One-day laydown Mar. 29) Forecast: Flaws aside, this has a chance at #1, though it may not stick at the top of the lists as long as Divine Secrets. Major ad/promo. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Fans of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood will find Wells's follow-up a major disappointment, lacking all the sparkle and insight into mother/daughter relationships that marked the introduction of characters Sidda, ViVi, Teensy, Necie, and Caro. This book is a collection of turgid vignettes highlighting moments in the lives of the Ya-Yas, told primarily from the point of view of Sidda and her mother, ViVi. Leaping randomly from the 1960s to the 1990s, these include such events as how ViVi met her three best friends, Sidda's first experience directing a Valentine's Day performance of the Ya-Yas, the first appearance of snow in their hometown of Thornton, LA, the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and other random events. The dialog is leaden, the stories not particularly interesting. Of course, given Wells's well-earned popularity for her earlier titles and the aggressive marketing campaign that will surround this book, public libraries will get requests but should consider purchase only to meet demand. [See Prepub, LJ 12/04.]-Nancy Pearl, formerly with Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
More helpings of southern-fried sisterhood. Actually, in this third set of snapshots from the lives of four Louisiana friends (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, 1997, etc.), the men get the final epiphanies. But since these consist of politically correct nostrums like "masculine love . . . is not about power. It is not about judging. It is about a quiet calm, a quiet love," it's clear that girls still rule. For those who have been panting to know how the Ya-Yas first got together, Wells takes us back to 1930, when Teensy Whitman shoves a pecan up her nose and, rushed to the doctor's office where Viviane Abbott sits with an earache, intoxicates Vivi with "a magical wink." Bohemian Caro and good-girl Necie round out the quartet before the year is up, and the narrative then bounces around to show them as unconventional young mothers during the 1960s and cool grannies in 1994. That's the year when Edythe Spevey, the mentally disturbed daughter of a jealous farm girl who always hated the wealthy, flamboyant Ya-Yas, snatches Necie's three-year-old granddaughter, Rosalyn, from a video store. This scary development assorts very oddly with earlier feel-good episodes that show the Ya-Yas facing down such all-too-easy targets as Necie's narrow-minded husband George (he doesn't like the Beatles!) and a censorious nun (she's shocked when Vivi's six-year-old son brings in his mother's garter belt for Show and Tell!). Not even a kidnapping can bring real depth to the kind of characters who call their kids "the Petites Ya-Yas" and their grandchildren "the Tres Petites." Fortunately, since Wells inclines to southern cutesiness rather than southern gothic, little Rosalyn is rescued in short order-andin plenty of time for the annual Ya-Ya Christmas party. Wells closes with a chaotic pageant that's meant to be adorable and the stunning revelation that Judge George Ogden is actually not such a bad guy. Another divine jacket image will undoubtedly move books off the shelves, but this is pretty thin stuff for all but the most fanatical Ya-Ya devotees.
“The charm here is in the details, the dialogue, and Wells’ canny observations about life in Thorton, Louisiana.”
Rocky Mountain News
“Hilarious…Had me laughing out loud…Brims with the Ya-Yas’ hallmark irreverence.”
Detroit Free Press
“A must-read…Rollicking anecdotes.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Wells is a marvelous writer.”
Wilmington Star News (NC)
“A sharp ear for dialogue and one of the finest gifts for verbal insult this side of Dorothy Parker.”
“Having friends like the Ya-Yas is something every woman wants and the lucky ones get.”
“Reveals the roots of the friendship of the Ya-Ya sisterhood.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Readers in touch with their inner Ya-Yas will feel right at home in Thornton.”
“Every bit as joyful as the original…Uplifting, uproarious, saucy, and smart…lives up to the highest expectations”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“Irrepressible…Touching…A pleasure to read.”
“Charming…Sparks of humor and sass.”
Read an Excerpt
Vivi, January 1994
My name is Viviane Abbott Walker. Age sixty-eight, but I can pass for forty-nine. And I do. I altered my driver's license and kept that gorgeous picture of me when my hair was still thick and I looked like Jessica Lange, and glued it onto every new license I've had since 1975. And not one officer has said a word to me about it. I like to think I am Queen of the Ya-Yas, the sisterhood I've been part of since I was four. But the fact is that all of us are queens. The Ya-Yas are not a monarchy. We are a Ya-Ya-cracy. Caro, who is still more alive than anyone I know, even though she is yoked to an oxygen tank most of the time because of her emphysema. Teensy, who is probably the most sophisticated of us, although she doesn't know it, and still cute as a bug. I never know when she'll be home in Thornton--right smack in the heart of Louisiana, where we were all raised--or in Paris or Istanbul. And Necie, our dear, kind Necie, who is still Madame Chairwoman of every charity in the parish, if not the state.
As Ya-Yas, we've grown up, raised our kids--the Petites Ya-Yas--and welcomed our grandchildren, the Très Petites, into this sweet, crazy world. We've helped one another stay glued together through most any life event you can imagine. Except we haven't buried our husbands yet. Well, Caro tried to bury Blaine when she found out he was gay, but decided he and his boyfriend were too much fun and Blaine too good a cook to kill him.
It was the Ya-Yas who brought my oldest child, Sidda, and I back together when we were on the verge of an ugly mother-daughter divorce. They would not stand by and watch it happen, bless their crazy wild hearts. Sidda said it was the three of them and that old scrapbook of mine that I so grandly titled "Divine Secrets" when I was nothing but a kid that helped her understand me. Helped her believe I loved her--even though I was what you might call an "uneven" mother. Sidda has always been melodramatic.
Sidda said she especially loved the snapshots. Snapshots are just snapshots as far as I am concerned. Sidda analyzes everything too much, if you ask me. But this morning, I'm the one who wants to study a photograph. And, of all things, it's one with my mother in it.
This morning I woke from the most vivid memory. It was not so much a dream as a completely clear picture of my mother, surrounded by flowers. It triggered an image that I just knew I had a photograph of. But I had to have my coffee before beginning the search. Photos in this house are not what you would call organized. You have to be an archaeologist to even form a search team. I've always been too busy living to sit around for hours and arrange the photos and snapshots into proper family albums. My life is so full. I might be a card-carrying member of AARP, but I am not retired. Or retiring, for that matter! Hah! I am busy, busy, busy. Work out at the club every single weekday. Bourrée with the Ya-Yas. Cruises with Shep. And spending time in that garden of his. He's out there so much that in order to see him, I have--for the first time in my life--put on a pair of deerskin gloves and done a very small amount of digging and weeding. He says it will grow on me. I say, What's wrong with being a garden amateur? Mass every Saturday afternoon. Confession twice a month. Reading everything I can get my hands on (except science fiction, too much like my bad dreams). Playing tennis with Teensy and Chick. I am fit as hell. My constitution is amazing. My liver is in fine shape, to the everlasting shock of my doctors. The most trouble I have is a little arthritis in my hands. I'm going to be like one of those women they find in China who live to be one hundred and forty after smoking and drinking all their lives.
Oh, there is pain in my life, but it is harder to put a name to it. Sometimes I lie in bed and wonder if there was a typhoid booster or dental checkup that I forgot to give Sidda, Little Shep, Lulu, or Baylor. Something I missed and should have done. Sometimes I lie in bed and wish I had just asked the kids what would have made them feel more loved. But I do not dwell, thank you very much. I follow Necie's words of wisdom: "Just think pretty pink and blue thoughts."
After one strong cup of Dark Roast Community Coffee, I began scrounging through the hutch drawers where I keep most of our family snapshots. I had to pray to Saint Anthony, Patron Saint of Lost Objects, and he finally helped me find the image I wanted. It was stashed in the back of one of the hutch drawers, slightly wrinkled, but there all the same. One of the things I love about Catholicism is that there is a saint for everything. If Sidda can't find a saint for something, that girl just makes one up. Even has one she calls Saint Madge of Menstruation. I don't consider that blasphemous, although there was a time when I would have. Now I just call it creative...
The foregoing is excerpted from Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022