Friday 18 February 2011

Wells, Rebecca "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and "Little Altars Everywhere"

Wells, Rebecca "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" - 1996
Wells, Rebecca "Little Altars Everywhere" - 1998

A story about a childhood of abuse and the approach to come to terms with its tragedies. A daughter trying to understand her mother, a beautiful account of friendship. Strained relationships, alcoholism. An interesting novel that brings up a lot of topics, even though I would probably classify it as "chick lit".

If you would like to read this, you should definitely read "Little Altars Everywhere" first.

Some quotes I liked:
"It's life. You don't figure it out. You just climb up on the beast and ride."
"I have been to the edge and lived to tell the tale.."
"I live in an ocean of smell…"
 (from "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood")

"Sidda can't help herself. She just loves books. Loves the way they feel, the way they smell, loves the black letters marching across the white pages..."
"See, she goes places when she reads. I know all about that. When I'm reading, wherever I am, I'm always somewhere else."
(from "Little Altars Everywhere")

From the back cover: (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood)
"When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she's directed, her mother gets described as a 'tap-dancing child abuser.' Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called 'Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.' As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for."

(Little Altars Everywhere)
"Little Altars Everywhere is a national bestseller, a companion to Rebecca Wells's celebrated novel Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Originally published in 1992, Little Altars introduces Sidda, Vivi, the rest of the spirited Walker Clan, and the indomitable Ya-Yas. It is now available for the first time in hardcover.

Told in alternating voices of Vivi and her husband, Big Shep, along with Sidda, her siblings Little Shep, Lulu, Baylor, and Cheney and Willetta -- the black couple who impact the Walkers' lives in ways they may never fully comprehend --
Little Altars embraces nearly thirty years of life on their plantation in Thorton, Louisiana, where the cloying air of the bayou and a web of family secrets of once shelter, trap, and define an utterly original community of souls.

Who can resist the rich cadences of Sidda Walker and her flamboyant, secretive mother, Vivi? Here, the young Sidda -- a precocious reader and an eloquent observer of the fault lines that divide her family -- leads us her mischievous adventures at Our Lady of Divine Compassion parochial school and beyond. A Catholic girl of pristine manners, devotion, and provocative ideas, Sidda is the very essence of childhood joy and sorrow.

In a series of luminous reminiscences, we also hear Little Shep's stories of his eccentric grandmother, Lulu's matter-of-fact account of her shoplifting skills, and Baylor's memories of Vivi and her friends, the Ya-Yas.

Beneath the humor and tight-knit bonds of family and friendship lie the undercurrents of alcoholism, abuse, and violence. The overlapping recollections of how the Walker's charming life uncoils to convey their heartbreaking confusion are at once unsettling and familiar. Wells creates an unforgettable portrait and funny attempts to keep reality at arm's length. Through our laughter, we feel their inevitable pain, with a glimmer of hope for forgiveness and healing.

An arresting combination of colloquialism, poetry, and grace,
Little Altars Everywhere is an insightful, piercing, and unflinching evocation of childhood, a loving tribute to the transformative power of faith, and a thoroughly fresh chronicle of a family that is as haunted as it is blessed."

We discussed this in our international book club in February 2002.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.

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