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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: A Novel Paperback – May 7, 1997

4 out of 5 stars 1,261 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Ya-Ya Series

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Amazon.com Review

Wells is a Louisiana-born Seattle actress and playwright; her loopy saga of a 40-year-old player in Seattle's hot theater scene who must come to terms with her mama's past in steamy Thornton City, Louisiana, reads like a lengthy episode of Designing Women written under the influence of mint juleps and Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. The Ya-Yas are the wild circle of girls who swirl around the narrator Siddalee's mama, Vivi, whose vivid voice is "part Scarlett, part Katharine Hepburn, part Tallulah." The Ya-Yas broke the no-booze rule at the cotillion, skinny-dipped their way to jail in the town water tower, disrupted the Shirley Temple look-alike contest, and bonded for life because, as one says, "It's so much fun being a bad girl!"

Siddalee must repair her busted relationship with Vivi by reading a half-century's worth of letters and clippings contained in the Ya-Ya Sisterhood's packet of "Divine Secrets." It's a contrived premise, but the secrets are really fun to learn.

From Publishers Weekly

Carrying echoes of both Fannie Flagg and Pat Conroy, Wells's second novel continues the story of Siddalee Walker, introduced in Little Altars Everywhere (1992). When Sidda asks her mother, the aging belle Vivi, for help in researching women's friendships, Vivi sends her daughter a scrapbook. From this artifact of Vivi's own lifelong friendship with three women collectively known as "the Ya-Ya's," and from Sidda's response to it, a story unfolds regarding a dark period in Vivi and Sidda's past that plagues their present relationship. While anecdotes about the Ya-Ya's (such as the riotous scene at a Shirley Temple look-alike contest) are often very amusing, the narrative is beset by superficial characterization and forced colloquialisms. Told through several narrative vehicles and traveling through space and time from Depression-era Louisiana to present-day Seattle, this novel attempts to wed a folksy homespun tale to a soul-searching examination of conscience. But while Wells's ambition is admirable and her talent undeniable, she never quite makes this difficult marriage work. $50,000 ad/promo; author tour. (May) FYI: HarperPerennial will publish the paperback edition of Little Altars Everywhere, which won the Western States Book Award, in May.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Perennial (May 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060928336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060928339
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,261 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,812,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you read "Little Altars Everywhere", you will be glad to know that "Divine Secrets" takes a look at the life of Siddalee Walker from the distance of heavily analyzed adulthood. "Divine Secrets" focuses once again on Siddalee, but this time she is a 40-year old successful stage director who is taking some time out from her career and her love life to put to rest some old ghosts.
After having humiliated her mother in national print (a New York Times reporter calls Viviane Walker "a tap dancing child abuser"), Siddalee is gifted with her mother's scrapbook, which, in Vivane Walker's typically outrageous style, has been named "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood". Viviane sends Siddalee this volume of personal mementos in an effort to have Siddalee understand her better without having to put any personal effort into the process.
Inside this scrapbook, Siddalee discovers bits and pieces of her mother's past - pictures, newspapaer articles, mementos - but she is not granted the entire story surrounding each of these titilating fragments. The reader is able to learn, through Viviane's own memory, all of the interesting details that Siddalee doesn't get to know.
This, I feel, is the greatest weekness in "Divine Secrets". The reader gets to see Viviane as a child and an adolescent, living in a home where she is abused by her father and openly detested by her mother. We learn about the death in WWII of Viviane's first and only love and the stresses put on her by having four stair-step children and an absentee husband. Siddalee, however, is not privy to any of this information.
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Format: Paperback
I had resisted this book for a long time because the title seemed silly. But I'd heard from several people that it was a good book, and I was ready to read what I thought might be light and frothy entertainment. I was immediately caught up in the story, however, and soon discovered that this was not a light book at all.
Sidda, who was brought up in Louisiana is, at age 40, is a successful theatrical director who has a falling out with her mother, Vivi, when she reveals too much of her childhood in a New York Times interview and her mother is depicted in print as a "tap dancing child abuser". Sidda is so deeply upset by this that she postpones her upcoming wedding and goes off to an island off the coast of Seattle to be alone. Her mother sends her a copy of a scrapbook entitled "The Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and gradually Sidda discovers more and more about her mother as well as about herself.
The four women who call themselves the Ya Yas developed their friendship as children in the 1930s and have been friends ever since. They've kept their friendship through their teenage years in the early forties, their marriages and motherhood in the 50s and have continued their friendship right up to the present, being there for each other through a lifetime of living.
The story is really Vivi's story though, and the place of the three friends in this novel is of important, but yet supporting players. With ultimate skill, the author brings the reader into the deep south. There's humidity and sweet smelling flowers; there's love and cruelty; there's the inequality of the racial relationships, there's funny and poignant stories; there's deep characterization. And, most of all there is friendship between the Ya Yas.
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Format: DVD
After all the hype and comparisons to 'Steel Magnolias', 'Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood', sadly, did not do much box office, which was a shame, as it is a more intimate, realistic vision of women and life-long friendships than the glossier 'Magnolias'.
Four girl friends in Louisiana create a secret sisterhood in 1937, swearing eternal devotion to each other, and they remain best friends through all the triumphs and tragedies in their lives. When the daughter of one of them (Sandra Bullock), a successful playright, has an interview with Time magazine in which she blasts her mother's impact on her life, the mother (Ellen Burstyn, who is superb!) goes ballistic, cutting the daughter out of her life, totally. Into this maelstrom charges the other members of the Sisterhood, kidnapping Bullock, and attempting to make things right!
The film then jumps back and forth in time, with Ashley Judd (who gives an Oscar-worthy performance) playing the younger Burstyn. She has a lot of happy adventures with her Ya-Ya sisters, but also has to deal with racism, a jealous religious zealot of a mother, an overly loving father (David Rasche, breaking free of his usual comic roles), a true love who dies in WWII, and a family with a guy she 'settles' for (played, in present day, by the wonderful James Garner). There is also a dark secret that is the core of the mother/daughter alienation, which must be dealt with in order for the rift between Bullock and Burstyn to heal (No, I will NOT give it away!)
If you do the math about the years covered, you realize the present-day story SHOULD be taking place in the early nineties, at the latest, but this doesn't hurt the overall effectiveness of the picture.
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