“The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”

May 15, 2009

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

356 pp.

Sidda Lee Walker, engaged to Connor, is coming to terms with the legacy of her mother, Vivi “Dahlin” Walker. Many years earlier, Vivi had “dropped her basket” and beaten her children. Sidda is left with physical as well as mental scars. When she tells an interviewer from the New York Times about the incident, the headline is Tap Dancing Child Abuser. Vivi reads this and refuses to forgive Sidda for misinterpreting her. “My love was a privilege 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 I have withdrawn that privilege.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.”

As the book moves forward, Sidda postpones her wedding. She goes off alone to think about her mother and their relationship, and to bring back memories of her mother at an earlier time. Vivi has lent Sidda a scrapbook entitled the ‘The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ that chronicles the friendship of Vivi and three other girls.  These girls remain inseparable into adulthood, so the other women are like aunts to Sidda, their children her cousins. As Sidda looks through the scrapbook, alternate chapters give the real story behind each of the mementos. Though Vivi’s life had many difficulties, the Ya-Ya sisterhood helped her survive and grow. The four girls had nights out in the woods pretending to be Indian maidens, giving themselves Indian names; they played several pranks and often got in trouble. In adulthood, they were pregnant at the same time, and in old age, they still picnicked and drank together.

The feel for Louisiana and the South in general adds local color to the novel. It is definitely a “chick” book, glorifying the long, fruitful friendships among women. I found the premise of Sidda as a dramatic director and her need for the scrapbook to help her in directing her next play too contrived.  A homecoming seemed a little easy as the outcome of such anger. However, there are wonderful moments in the book, especially on Vivi’s youth and her time in a convent school—and maybe I’m too harsh a critic because everyone else I know loved this book. If you are asked to read a loosely historical fiction to start a project, this is a good choice.

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