on December 7, 2008
When secrets have been buried beneath the veneer of the skin, they fester. Sometimes, those secrets can be held at bay for years, decades even. Sometimes the secrets you hold can eat away at who you are, and what you have become. Usually, they have to come out sooner or later.
The consequences of that release, letting the secrets breathe and have life once more, can be good or bad - but keeping those secrets inside can tear a family apart.
In the incredible book "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells, we meet Siddalee Walker, a middle aged playwright directing her first Broadway play. She is the daughter of Southern Belle Vivi Abbot Walker. Their relationship is rocky at best.
Along for the ride are Vivi's life long friends: Necie, Caro and Teensy. Decades ago, Vivi, Necie, Caro and Teensie formed a secret sisterhood, the sisterhood of the Ya-Ya's. They will let no man put them under, and will always listen to the call of the women and Gods that came before them.
Their friendship, forged in the heat of the South and the blood they shared, has stood the test of time. Unfortunately, Vivi's relationships with her children, especially Sidda, haven't.When the New York Times interviews Sidda and proclaims her mother to be a tap dancing child abuser, all hell breaks loose. Vivi cuts Siddalee out of her will and proclaims her dead to her, in true Southern fashion.
At a loss as to how to articulate her pain, Sidda decides not to marry her seven-year sweetheart Connor McGill. The Ya-Ya's step in to Sidda's aid. They implore Vivi to send Sidda the Divine Secrets, a scrapbook of sorts that chronicles their lives together. Flipping through the large book, Sidda is thrust back in time, to the South in the 1930's and beyond, and learns what really happened to her mother and her life.
We learn, along with Sidda, about the alcohol, the lost love that died in the war, what really preceded the beating outside of their family home when Vivi finally broke down. Once secrets are released, they have a difficult time staying hidden. And, as is often the case with secrets, once one has found it's way out to the light, the other secrets are not too far behind.
In "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," Wells has created a tapestry of words, showing us snapshots of one family's life and a relationship between mother and daughter that is, in the end, strong enough to survive child beatings, abuse, booze, girl scouts, lovers, enemies and the perfect perm.
We are offered a glimpse into the lives of these people, Sidda, Vivi, her husband Shep, and it is often times a harrowing picture, a dark one. It is, however, a story that probably everyone can relate to. For how often have we bemoaned our parents, thought them ill equipped to deal with us, or that they really didn't love us or want us when it is the other way around? That they don't know how to show love and affection, that they are unable to, perhaps due to what happened to them as children. Secrets that no child really ever finds out.
"Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" is a wonderful novel filled with humor, honesty and the strength of the human spirit. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?
on November 27, 2007
This is a book for anyone who is a mother and anyone who is a daughter.
It's about insight and perspective, love and forgiveness, and ultimately, about the redemptive (life-giving) nature of the relationships between mother and daughter and women friends.
Even if we didn't have it as bad as Vivi or SiddaLee, most off us mothers have screwed up and hurt our kids without meaning to, and many of us know what it feels like to have a mother whose own pain sometimes gets in the way of her ability to be a "good" mother.
What Wells has given us is a poignant, sometimes painful, sometimes humorous portrait of the journey between the way it is between Vivi and SiddaLee and the way they want it to be.
This is also a book about friendship, about continuity over time, and the truth of women's lives. It's about friends who share joy, responsibility and their shame with each other. I loved every moment of reading this book. You will too.
If you loved this book, along with the SHOPAHOLIC SERIES and the book THE WOMAN WHO CUT OFF HER LEG, then you'll have one great collection.
on March 2, 2004
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood is the ideal novel for so many reasons. For one thing it is not saying that it is okay to beat your kids it is telling the reader that it really happened, that mothers really did beat their kids and no one really cared. Another thing I love hearing about the 1930's because I did not live through that and it is better to hear a story about the thirties than just have people telling you that the thirties were awful and were a time when no one cared about anyone. This is a story about Sidda who grew up in the south, at the beginning we learn that Sidda gave an interview to the Times and accidently told them that she was abused. Now her mother is not talking to her. But when Sidda needds ideas for a play that she is directing she needs her mother's help. She writes to her mother and the Ya-Yas asking for help with the play. In return they send her the Divine Secrets, which is a scrapbook that tells about all their adventures. Throughout the book you are going back and forth between modern day and the thirties, fourties, fifties, and sixties. You hear about tragedies, romances, friendships, and adventures throughout the cycle of life. I would recommend this book to everyone over the age of 13 because their are some drug, sexual, and abuse related content that not all children will understand. I hope that this review has been helpful to you.
on January 6, 2004
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a story of love, friendship and the events that shape a person. Sidda Walker is a forty-old playwright who is afraid to love or lose her fiancée. After a misleading article in the New York Times proclaiming her mother a "Tap-Dancing Child Abuser" Sidda decides to go and find herself. She goes to a secluded cabin in Washington, and asks her mom, Vivi for "The Divine Secrets", a scrapbook of Vivi's life growing up with her friends in Louisiana. In the book, Sidda finds letters, newspaper articles, and stories about Vivi's life, and she discovers all the divine parts of Vivi's life.
This book talks about friendships that shape peoples lives. The friendship between the "Ya-Ya's" is strong, and shapes all of their lives. The author, Rebecca Wells tells this story beautifully through stories. Wells used a narrative that jumps around from third to first person, depending on the story or letter. This adds closeness between the reader and the characters in the book. The reader is able to be a part of the story, and when it's first person, they can feel what the character is feeling.
Another great thing about the book is the unique relationship between the mother and the daughter. The relationship is introduced very harshly, with the New York Times article. Then through the stories, the reader is able to see all of the events that changed the relationship, including the main one, the abuse. Wells wrote the story in a way that the audience can relate with this story line. Most people have unique relationships with their mothers, and this is a topic people can relate with.
Another thing Wells did well in the story is to talk about the issue of abuse. In the story, Sidda is abused when she was a child. This affected Sidda throughout her life. The abuse story line is a very real issue, and helped create emotion.
Overall, the book is outstanding. Rebecca Wells told the story of Vivi Walker very well. In one minute, the reader hates Vivi, and in the next you feel sorry for her and the next moment you understand why she's the way she is. I highly recommend this book to anyone, and I encourage everyone to read it.
on December 10, 2003
The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
Siddalle Walker is the eldest daughter of Viviane Abbot Walker. She has a very complicated relationsip with her mother. Siddallee feels she has been abused when she was a little girl and that she was never good enough for her mother. She felt she lived a horrible life when conpared to her mother's life it wasn't even close to horrible. Viviane Abbot Walker is a giddy, high strung woman. She lived a very hard life when she was younger. Her mother was jealous and hated her. She cannot get over the death of her high school sweetheart who died in the war. Ever since then she has developed a drinking problem. Siddalee and Vivi have both broken each others hearts and this is the story of them mending them.
The plot starts off when Siddalee Walker is interviewed by a magazine, about a hit play she directed. In the interview her mother is described as a "tap-dancing child abuser." Enraged, Vivi refuses to accept that Sidda is her daughter. Sidda begs for forgiveness and even post pones her wedding. So, Sidda will understand her mother's life, and why she is the way she is the Ya-Yas, a group Vivi made when she was 11-years-old with her three friends, convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of her childhood memories and her growing up called, " The Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood." The rest of the story shows the ups and downs of Vivi's life, and also how Siddalee saw her mother at that time.
In my opinion this was a fantastic, well written book. It very well showed the many struggles between a mother and a daughter. The characters were creatively and fully developed, and I was able to feel like I was living the characters' lives. This is a book with a lot of emotion. I was either not able to stop laughing, or I was bawling my eyes out. I was always feeling what the characters were feeling. When thye laughed, I laughed; when they cried, I cried. This was a very comic and dramatic book that I couldn't stop reading. I was very well drawn into the story.
on December 1, 2003
First of all I did not like the movie. So don't let that deter you. This is a wonderful book full of life and poetry with passages that beg to be re-read. I read this book based on a recommendation and I wasn't sure whether I'd even finish it. It's one of my favorites now.
Siddha Abbott is having some problems. She has postponed her wedding and is on the outs with her mother thanks to an interview in the New York Times where she divulges (thinking it's not for publication) that her Mother was not the best parent. And in fact she wasn't between the boozing and the pills and her just not really wanting to be married or a parent most of the time. Siddha's mother, Vivi, sends her the scrapbook she created to document the times of her and her 3 lifelong friends, the Ya-Ya's. Ostensibly this is because Siddha asked for information from her on female friendships but really this is Vivi's attempt to explain why she is the way she is to her estranged daughter in the only way she can. Over the course of the book, Siddha and Viva, in Washington and Louisiana respectively, will delve into the past and try to come to terms with it. Parts of the story are funny, like the Ya-Ya's attending the Gone with the Wind premiere (a sequence like so many others that the film failed to do justice to.) Some parts are touching and some are really disturbing-the abuse endured by Vivi and later Siddha is not dwellt on extensively but it's intense. The Ya-Ya's, who care for them both, help Siddha fill in some blanks about Vivi's disappearances and one alcohol fueled rage that literally left scars. The themes of forgiveness and redemption and finally taking joy in the moment run throughout.
And the writing! Wells is in no hurry with her narrative but has such a gift for description that you could read all day happily about the Ya-Ya's sitting on that porch ("This is where they lay for hours, contemplating their navels, sweating, dozing, swatting flies, trading secrets there on the porch in a hot, humid girl soup.") If you thought the movie was too maudlin or manufactured (it was), this book strikes a perfect note. It's funny, sad and sweet in just the right balance. And the end-I won't give it away but I just wanted to step into the pages and experience it with the characters who were like family at that point. There is so much that is worthwhile in this book it's not just for mothers and daughters.
on June 16, 2003
Okay, I can't explain it. I walked into this book prepared to hate it, but the conditions were that I read the book before seeing the movie, per mom. Not that I wanted to see the movie, but we had to have our "mother-daughter" deal. *sigh* I picked up the book and glanced at it. Over and over. For about a week, until finally I tried to read it. I was, from the first page, hooked on that book like a snapper is hooked on a fishing line. Nothing could tear me free, not dinner, dessert, friends, the internet- nothing until I finished the dang book. And once I was done, ya know what? I read it all again! I've read it at least 6 times. The movie wasn't near as good as the book, so if you're basing your impressions of the Ya-Yas on Sandra Bullock *shudder* (not a bad actress- but not Siddalee, at all), you need to read this book. I promise you, I give you my personal guarentee, that you will fall in love (or at least enjoy) the stories of Siddalee, Vivi, and the whole Ya-Ya bunch down there in Louisiana.
on May 19, 2003
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood tells the story of a girl named Sidda Walker who admired her mother, Vivi Walker while she was growing up. Sidda however also had to live with her mother's spontaneous, cruel acts towards her and her siblings. Vivi's actions were passed down from her own mother, Buggy.
I feel that the ideal audience for the book, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, would be teenagers and older, but more specifically females because of the fact that the book centers mainly on the relationship of four women. The author of this book uses characterization extremely well. With her descriptions of the characters, I could imagine each one of them in my head as if they were standing right in front of me. The author gave descriptions of characters in creative ways instead of just listing their physical features. When Vivi Walker is described as a young mother, the author uses characterization to create an image in the reader's mind, "Her hair was naturally blonde, and without makeup her eyebrows and eyelashes were the same shade." All throughout the book, the author uses strong imagery, which helps the reader to really understand what is being described. An example of this is when Vivi's daughter, Sidda, is describing the distinct smell of the Ya-Yas, "The soft aroma of old worn cotton from a linen chest; the lingering smell of tobacco on an angora sweater; Jergen's hand lotion; sautéed green peppers and onions..."
Although this book focuses around mother/daughter relationships, it also focuses on the relationship between the four Ya-Yas. The reader discovers the strong, loyal, long-lasting friendship of the Ya-Yas from childhood to adulthood. This book shows readers the importance of a motherly figure in a daughter's life.
I really enjoy reading this book and couldn't seem to put it down. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has ever had a best friend or a group of best friends. There are many aspects of close friendships that this book touches upon.
on May 17, 2003
Viviane Joan Abbott. Caroline Eza Bennett. Aimee Malissa Whitman. Denise Rose Kelleher. No, these aren't the names of movie stars, these are the names of 4 best friends, nicknamed Vivi, Caro, Teensy, and Necie respectively and known as the Ya-Ya sisters. The Ya-Yas survive everything together, from marriage to motherhood, always relying on each other's love, even in the most tragic situations. "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" brings togethr a mother and daughter, Vivi and her oldest daughter Sidda, on a journey to sort out and understand their sad and tragic past. It is a journey, that I believe, we all must go through one day because none of our lives are perfect.
Vivi is a woman who has both endured and caused a lot of pain. In her younger years, Vivi is a veritable force of nature, and she has this way of sweeping her friends and family into her tragedies. In high school, she was what you'd call a perfect teenager: cheerleader, popular, beautiful, tennis captain, yearbook editor etc. However, as we read, we realize that behind this "happy" girl, her life is far from perfect. When the book begins, her successful playwright/daughter Sidda has just given a tell-all interview to a reporter from the New York Times in which she details what it was like to grow up with her family especially her mother. The article states that Sidda's mother, Vivi, physically abused her children and was a cruel mother. Lest mother and daughter never reconcile, the Ya-Ya sisterhood intervenes (Teensy, Caro, and Necie), visiting Sidda and force-feeding her secrets about her mother's past, telling why Vivi acted crazily towards her children.
As the book progresses, we zero in on the relationship between Vivi and Sidda, which, is more complex than we think. Vivi actually had a reason for beating her children because of a bourbon addiction. Also, we travel through Vivi's life when she was a child, which you wouldn't really call the "perfect" life. In fact, Vivi's family doesn't seem as if they love her. They believe that she is not Catholic enough. This has caused Vivi a lot fo emotional grief in her life which is another reason why she is sometimes so violent. Back to the present, Vivi has caused Sidda a lot of grief and anger from her youth. Sidda must forgive Vivi to move on with life.
Sidda starts working on a new play about friendship and what better way to begin it with the Ya-Ya's helping her! She then asks Vivi to send her their scrapbook so she can get a better feel of what true friendship is really like through their pictures, letters, souvenirs from ever since they were little.
Divine Secrets does venture into rather dark territory - scenes where Vivi projects both strength and weakness. But there's never much doubt that Vivi will survive her nervous breakdown or that she will make amends with her daughter and husband. Still, the moments themselves are genuinely heartfelt, thanks in large part to the emotional experiences of Vivi, who is a woman who's almost absurdly tragic.
"Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" is not like you're usual novel these days. It's not a mystery or adventure or science-fiction. This novel has it's own genre: reality because the situations portrayed in this book could happen to any woman or male and is truly inspiring. "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Siterhood" is a very entertaining and a deeply moving novel about the complex bonds between a mother and a daughter. But, most importantly, it is also about the meaning of the true friendship between Vivi and her Ya-ya's. I believe that every woman should have a pack of buddies like the Ya-Yas to get them through the normal tragedies of life. Without the Ya-Ya's during all of her emotional tragedies, Vivi would not have been able to get through life. After reading this novel, I have one thing to say: "Go Ya-Ya's!" I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys novels where you grow as an individual. "Divine
Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" is one of those books where you'll laugh and cry but you'll mostly learn from all the mistakes that Vivi, Necie, Caro, Teensy,and Sidda make in their life.
on March 9, 2003
Rebecca Wells' novel, the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, portrays the truths of growing up and the reality of relationships between mothers and daughters. Wells writes informally and descriptively so that the setting of Louisiana creates and authentic feeling that the reader easily connects with. Also used in the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood are metaphors, vernacular style, and symbols. These devices add to the overall effect of the novel giving it a light, warm hearted mood. The southern dialect exemplifies the unique culture in Louisiana. The story covers the time in Sidda's life where she ultimately finds herself with the help of her mother Vivi and the Ya-Yas. The novel stresses the importance of the relationship between a mother and her daughter. They must exist in one another's lives in a way in which positive feelings are received. I enjoyed the novel with its humor and description. I felt I connected with the story line and overall message given by Rebecca Wells. I recommend the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to anyone looking for an entertaining read with a deep and meaningful theme.