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The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel

3.9 96
by Rebecca Wells

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Known for her beloved Ya-Ya books (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Little Altars Everywhere, and Ya-Yas in Bloom), Rebecca Wells has helped women name, claim, and celebrate their shared sisterhood for over a decade. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood held the top of the New York Times bestseller list for


Known for her beloved Ya-Ya books (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Little Altars Everywhere, and Ya-Yas in Bloom), Rebecca Wells has helped women name, claim, and celebrate their shared sisterhood for over a decade. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood held the top of the New York Times bestseller list for sixty-eight weeks, became a knockout feature film, sold more than 5 million copies, and inspired the creation of Ya-Ya clubs worldwide.

Now Wells debuts an entirely new cast of characters in this shining stand-alone novel about the pull of first love, the power of life, and the human heart's vast capacity for healing.

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the sweet, sexy, funny journey of Calla Lily's life set in Wells's expanding fictional Louisiana landscape. In the small river town of La Luna, Calla 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 cut short. Her mother, M'Dear, a woman of rapture and love, teaches Calla compassion, and passes on to her the art of healing through the humble womanly art of "fixing hair." At her mother's side, Calla further learns that this same touch of hands on the human body can quiet her own soul. It is also on the banks of the La Luna River that Calla encounters sweet, succulent first love, with a boy named Tuck.

But when Tuck leaves Calla with a broken heart, she transforms hurt into inspiration and heads for the wild and colorful city of New Orleans to study at L'Académie de Beauté de Crescent. In that extravagant big river city, she finds her destiny—and comes to understand fully the power of her "healing hands" to change lives and soothe pain, including her own. When Tuck reappears years later, he presents her with an offer that is colored by the memories of lost love. But who knows how Calla Lily, a "daughter of the Moon Lady," will respond?

A tale of family and friendship, tragedy and triumph, loss and love, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder features the warmth, humor, soul, and wonder that have made Wells one of today's most cherished writers, and gives us an unforgettable new heroine to treasure.

Editorial Reviews

This brainchild of Ya-Ya Sisterhood proprietor Rebecca Wells takes us to the small Louisiana river town of La Luna, the home of young Calla Lily and her loving mother, M'Dear. From her supportive, spiritual mother, Calla learns the art of "fixing hair." After a major disappointment in love, our buoyant heroine decides to move to wild New Orleans, where she can pursue that craft at the Cajun-chic L'Académie de Beauté de Crescent. It is here that she first fully realizes that the power of her healing hands endows her with an abiding life purpose. This newfound tranquility suffers a temporary setback, however, when the love of her life reappears. An evocative summer tale by the author of Ya-Yas in Bloom and Little Altars Everywhere.
Carolyn See
there's something down-to-earth and comforting about [The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder]…I think the audience for this good-hearted, wishful-thinking book is probably young mothers, staying home with their kids, beginning to feel the existential loneliness sink in and striving to make the best of the hands life has dealt. For them, being told to turn up the boombox and dance in the moonlight, trusting that life is basically good, may be sound advice indeed.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Wells (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) weaves more of the magic that made her a bestseller. At first, Calla Lily Ponder appears to be just like any other young woman growing up in the small town of La Luna, La., where life is simple and Calla Lily is supported by a loving, tightly knit family and a colorful cast of locals. But after a series of hometown heartbreaks, Calla Lily sets out for New Orleans to attend a prestigious beauty academy with dreams of one day opening her own salon. Calla Lily soon learns that while the Big Easy offers a fresh start, adventures and exhilarating new friends, it also presents its own set of tragedies and setbacks. The novel is chock-full of Southern charm and sassy wisdom, and despite its sugary sweetness, it benefits from a hearty dose of Wells's trademark charisma. Calla Lily's story may not be as involved or satisfying as that of the Ya-Yas, but she's sure to be a crowd-pleaser thanks to her humble aspirations, ever hopeful heart and perseverance no matter what fate throws at her. (July)

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Library Journal
After Ya-Yas in Bloom, Wells keeps her beloved Louisiana locale but wisely moves on to new characters. Set in tiny La Luna, this novel follows Calla Lily from girlhood through the next 25 years (to 1986). Her papa teaches music, her mama, M'Dear, is a hairdresser; together they run a dance studio. Calla Lily inherits M'Dear's gifts for creating beauty and solace through her hands. Seeking comfort after some painful events, Calla Lily makes a new life as a young adult in New Orleans. VERDICT Wells's latest novel lacks the spunk and spark of her early books, but this more mellow work may reflect the author's personal struggles with serious health issues over the last few years. While Wells's fan base will seek another nostalgic visit to the Deep South of the past, complete with its prejudices, younger women may be attracted to Calla Lilly and her friends. And all readers will embrace the themes of second chances, "take the best and leave the rest," and M'Dear's "Rules of Life."—Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Kirkus Reviews
Wells (Ya-Yas in Bloom, 2005, etc.) leaves her Ya-Yas behind to chronicle the life of a Louisiana beautician with healing powers. Calla Ponder, born in 1953, is raised in the small Cajun town of La Luna, where Calla's beloved mother M'Dear teaches Calla to trust in the power of the Moon Lady. M'Dear and Calla's Papa run a dance studio based on M'Dear's belief in "dancing from the bottom of your heart." M'Dear also has a salon on her front porch where Calla realizes she loves to help people by fixing their hair problems. Tragedy mars Calla's idyllic childhood/adolescence when breast cancer strikes M'Dear, who dies with noble grace in 1970. Grief-stricken Calla remains plucky, buoyed by her long-term romance with Tuck, who lives with his grandparents in La Luna to escape his alcoholic mother and sadistic father. As she graduates from high school, her relationship with Tuck falters. Despite high SATs, Calla decides to attend beauty school to follow M'Dear's example, while studious Tuck leaves for Stanford. He promises to write, but Calla never hears from him again. Heartbroken, she moves to New Orleans to attend L'Academie de Beaute de Crescent-Wells has no use for subtlety. Soon Calla is the prize protege of Ricky Chalon, who recognizes her potential to raise hair care to "a healing art." Calla fantasizes about marrying Ricky until she learns that he is gay and happily committed to lawyer Steve. Instead, she falls in love with Ricky's hunky boat-captain cousin, Sweet, with whom she lives in marital bliss until he dies in a boat explosion caused by greedy oilmen. With the settlement Steve wins Calla, she moves back to La Luna to establish her hair practice. When Tuck, recently divorced,comes home for his grandfather's funeral, she learns that his well-meaning but wrong-headed grandfather misdirected their letters to keep them apart. Naturally, love wins out. Wells wallops every button in this sugary addition to the growing genre of Southern beauty parlor uplift fiction.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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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

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

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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. 96 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 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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I am so sad it finished so soon. Sad at times, but really beautiful overall.
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