The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel

by Rebecca Wells


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The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel by Rebecca Wells

In the small river town of La Luna, Louisiana, Calla Lily Ponder bursts into being, a force of nature as luminous as the flower she is named for. Under the loving light of the Moon Lady, the feminine force that will guide and protect her throughout her life, Calla enjoys a blissful childhood—until it is tragically cut short. From her mother, Calla learns compassion and healing through the humble womanly art of "fixing hair." On the banks of the La Luna River, she discovers a sweet, succulent first love that is as enticing as the music, food, and dancing of her Louisiana home. When heartbreak hits, Calla leaves the familiarity of her hometown and heads downriver to the untamed city of New Orleans, where her destiny further unfolds.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the story of a pink-collar heroine whose willingness to remain vulnerable in the face of adversity opens our own hearts to the possibility of love growing from sorrow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060930622
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/13/2010
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 552,283
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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.


An island near Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Alexandria, Louisiana


B.A., Louisiana State University; Graduate work, Louisiana State University and Naropa Institute


A Conversation with Rebecca Wells

Q: You're known for finding the magic inside the ordinary. In this book, hair seems to play that role. Can you talk about that?

A: THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER is a book that has a lot of love stories. Mother and daughter. Girl and boy. Man and woman. The love that exists among friends, male and female. And the love story of a soul growing in its own subtle ways.

When I was a young girl, I was fascinated by beauty salons, or beauty parlors, as they were alternately called. My mother went to Stephan's Beauty Parlor in my hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana. It was by City Park, and we'd be taken along to sit and wait for her to get her hair done. As I recall it, my brothers headed out to the park, my sister sat in the car enjoying the radio, and I was inside, listening to the ladies talk. I loved their chatter, their hoots of laughter coming up from the salon floor. I'd sit on a little bench near an antique chest. I watched my mother and her friends move about the salon, their plastic smocks on, their hair in different stages of being dyed or permed. I knew instinctively that the beauty parlor was more than just a place where they went to get their hair done. They went there on Fridays or Saturdays in the way they went to church on Sundays. I am not equating religion with hair styling, but I do mean that each carries with it a gathering of energy that touches not only the person's head but also their heart and soul.

Hair has always symbolized, in different ways, part of the soul. From Medieval times on, lovers carried a snippet of each other's hair in a locket. In the MaypoleDance, the ribbons braiding round the pole of Fate signified the rays of the moon and sun. The braid that resulted represented interpretation of masculine and feminine. In fairy tales, the hair comb represented maternal protection in the same way that the hair of Isis represented the thicket of reeds that shielded her child from danger.

Q: THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER is set in your native Louisiana. How do your feelings about your home state influence your writing?

A: I am a daughter of the Louisiana earth, and my work will always be influenced by the cadence, sounds, birds, food, music, people, and flat rich lands of our sweet wild state. I hope that my love for my home state comes through in everything I write. I also hope that my concern comes through. As an expatriate writer from my homeland, I think it may take a while for my imagination to integrate the horrors that continue from Hurricane Katrina, and the unconscionable way this national disaster is still being mishandled.

For me, Louisiana carries great sadness. It is yet another paradise which greed has almost spoiled. But it is a testament to the soul of the people there that they still have a big time, still laugh real loud.

Q: M'Dear and Calla Lily share an unbreakable mother-daughter bond. How does this relationship shape both of their lives?

A: When Calla Lily is an infant, M'Dear holds her up to the moon and blesses her, promising that even when it is dark, when everything seems at its worst, the light will still be there in the same way that the moon is there, even when we cannot see her. M'Dear's unshakable belief that we are taken care of by a loving higher power is the biggest gift that she gives Calla Lily. The gift of being able to help heal a person's spirit by touching her head through the humble act of fixing hair is an extension of this belief, and it's what bonds mother and daughter, this act of the Moon Lady working through them both.

Q: From her mother, Calla Lily inherits "healing hands" and an appreciation of their power to not only fix hair and beautify a woman's exterior but also to connect with and mend the emotional turmoil of the person underneath. What inspired you to give the Ponder women these special abilities?

A: We live in a culture in which so much value is put on what we see on the surface. We have ourselves cut on, cut up, shot up, ripped out, and nipped on-just to look more "beautiful' and young. I just loved the idea of a mother and daughter who share the gift of healing through the humble art of "fixing hair." At an early time in my career, when I was first starting to write, I wrote a one-woman show called "Splittin' Hairs." This book is in part an exploration of who that character really was, wherever she came from. By the way, I loved Calla Lily before I even started this book--because I loved the character who inspired her. Her name was Loretta Endless, and I performed her all over the country, sometimes in theatres but mostly in non-traditional sites like small villages in bush Alaska in front of Inuit children who I was teaching during the day. (Where I traveled by floatplane from island to island and town to town; I performed at the Fairbanks Alaska State Penitentiary. That is a story in itself!) So all this time, Calla Lily was brewing in my mind, simmering, over many years. Since 1982! So I guess you could say that this book is slow-cooked on the back burner, like the gumbo I grew up eating.

Q: The novel depicts female friendships across racial, generational and socio-economic lines, and your previous books have dealt extensively with the idea of sisterhood. Why does this theme resonate so strongly with you?

A: I care that the sisterhood that women naturally crave and are deeply capable of be celebrated, nurtured, and taken seriously, but never too seriously. In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Vivi says that there are many secrets in the sisterhood, but the greatest one is humor. That outrageous, funny, big-hearted, generous of spirit Ya-Ya-ness is like sunshine in the rainy Pacific Northwest where I now "make my home." (An interesting phrase. Why do authors always put that on their book jackets? Do other folks-hair cutters, for instance--"make their homes" in Chicago? I don't know.)

Q: The natural world plays a big part in the story, and in fact the La Luna River and the moon are as fully realized and important as any of the human characters. How do you manage to fuse together the mystical and the ordinary in such an organic way?

A: It's how I see the world. Sparks of the divine float all over the place, when we're quiet enough to listen. Good surrounds us in the forms of rivers and moons, laughs and sighs, and meals cooked with love. I see my life as full of grace, and I see that moments of grace are offered through nature as well as through other characters. I come to writing from acting. Joseph Chekhov, cousin of Anton Chekhov, taught that an actor must treat atmosphere as another character. Characters in a novel are not just people, in the same way that our lives are not just made from relationships with other people. Our lives are also made of relationships with trees, peonies, fresh basil, and the scent of neroli.

Q: Over the course of THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER, Calla Lily experiences first love and then later a more mature love. How do the men in her life reflect both her essential nature and her growth?

A: The story of Calla Lily and her men may not be over.

Q: Few people have had the opportunity to preside over an enduring global phenomenon like the Ya-Yas. How does it feel to create novels that speak to millions and millions of readers? Why do you think your work touches so many people?

A: I have said this before, and I still think it's true: outside of an orgasm, there is no better experience than laughing and crying at the same time. Maybe this is one reason why.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I ain't telling.

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The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
Marley1079 More than 1 year ago
As expected, Rebecca Wells does not disappoint. The story of Calla Lily Ponder has all the Louisiana flair of Wells' previous tales of the Ya-Yas, with plenty of realism, fantasy, romance, and laughter to go around. The book was a tad slow in the first chapter, but quickly thereafter grabbed me and pulled me in so I didn't want to put it down. I have been waiting for a very good Southern tale to compete with my love of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood trilogy, and this one certainly did, following Calla from childhood through to early adulthood. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys this type of Fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was able to download the audio version of this book, and it was so well read with all the emotions the characters were feeling. I found myselft crying during various parts of the book. I loved the audio version so much that I went ahead and bought the hardcover version as well.
Martinbaby1 More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to read this book and must say that I was a bit disappointed by the time I finished the last page. As always, Wells provides a luscious Louisiana back drop for her setting and the comradery shared amongst women makes your heart swell with the want for a big 'ol girls' night out. The book, however, is filled with references to the Moon Lady that I found a bit too far out and that didn't really improve the story. I would have been much more interested in the development of a better story line for Calla Lily than useless tales of a mysterious celestial goddess overseeing the character during her day-to-day life. The plot is one that has been used many times girl loves boy, boy leaves girl and finally they reunite but with Wells' gift for the written word one would hope for less predictability. Bottom line- easy read that will pass the time at the beach but not a book you will remember next year.
Anonymous 4 months ago
The Crown g Glory of Calla Lily Ponder was a fabulous read. Ms, Wells writes so eloquently you find yourself bookmarking all over to preserve such well written meaningful passages. This is the story of New Orleans life and life’s lessons that make you laugh, cry and keep on reading! You’re just ready to begin again when Its over! Bless you Rebecca Wells.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Add this to list of wonderful books by Rebecca Wells. Written in the style of the Ya Ya’s, I simply loved this story. I could envision all the characters clearly.
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I loved this book because I love the south. So much love and forgiveness. The world needs more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book and was sad to see it end.  I flew through it this summer and passed it on to my sister-in-law who also loved it!  I will never look at the moon without thinking of the love in this book.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
I have the privilege of reading and doing it quite a lot of it. When a book can move me to spasms of fear (falling into a river were snakes are seen makes me want my Momma), cry with laughter, shake with outrage, all within the space of a few pages, I know that I am reading something exceptional.  Rebecca Wells takes the first 28 years of a fictional young lady and causes the reader to live with her in the heat and humidity of Louisiana, through the pain of growing up and rejoicing in every minute of that life.  Judith Ivey’s voice abilities bring to life all the characters so richly created by Ms. Wells, hearing this charming story aloud is a like a trip to a long anticipated family reunion. Calla Lilly Ponder is born in on the banks of the La Luna River, in the town of La Luna, Louisiana, in 1953.  She was delivered of M’Dear, her mother, beloved of her father and two older brothers.  Her childhood was filled with the wonder found in a town where “everybody knows and cares about everybody.”  M’Dear is a gifted hair dresser and Calla has inherited the gifts associated with that profession.  Early, Calla Lilly knew her life would be devoted to helping others look better and offering the healing that comes with being touched by compassionate hands.  After life gave her sufficient occasions for growth in La Luna, she heads to New Orleans to attain the formal training that began at M’Dear’s knee.  While there, she learns the reality of life, in all its wonder, hurt, success, betrayal and joining it can offer.  The ending is the weakest moment of this otherwise excellent novel, but it is not so weak as to detract from the delight that precedes it. There is nothing particular to which one can point that would cause this a story to be one the reader does not want to pause in its reading nor arrive at its end. It most definitely is one that I would “find” time to attend to at every available (or created) moment and I was sad when the last word was spoken.  All of the characters are well developed, well rounded and alive.  The plot is set in a time when life was slower, but was gaining speed with a rapid pace.  Ms. Wells has a gift for reaching the reader in the heart of life and holding them in place as that heart beats a steady, life affirming rhythm. A rhythm that is as familiar as the face in the mirror.   The major theme of the book is the reminder that life lived to its fullest is a life that is lived with openness, acceptance and bravery.  It is filled with delightful events that occur with frequency, occasionally there are horrific moments that seem never to end and impact life in ways that will leave scars that will remain as long as we have breath.  Its days are filled with nothing notable but the constancy of friends that turn into a living that is a wonderful whole made up of those moments unnoticed.  This is the current that carries the book from the page to the heart of the reader – open your heart to life or miss living.   I have yet to read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Ms. Wells’s first novel, and that is an error I hope to soon rectify.  If it is anything near the read that this book is, it will be a too long in coming and its visit will be far too short.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story!!! Loved it!!!!!
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I enjoyed this book. I think anyone could read this.
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tequilla More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Thoroughly enjoyed how Louisiana was described!
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