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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
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Judith Ivey's portrayal of the eccentric characters in this popular novel, now a major motion picture, could certainly be described as "divine." The work, a companion to Wells's Little Altars Everywhere, has become a cult classic, spawning over 80 "Ya-Ya chapter groups" worldwide. The story begins with theater director Siddalee Walker being effectively disowned by her mother, Vivi, after some of Siddalee's darker childhood memories appear in a New York Times article. Devastated by Vivi's rejection, Siddalee postpones her wedding and retreats to a remote cabin in Washington State. Although Vivi will not speak to Siddalee, she does send her the "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," a scrapbook chronicling the girlhood adventures of Vivi and her three best friends (a.k.a. the Ya-Ya's). Through her examination of the scrapbook, Siddalee gains a deeper understanding of her mother and herself. Wells's colorful descriptions of small-town life in Louisiana in the 1930s and 1940s, coupled with Ivey's outstanding performance on both programs, make this an excellent pick for popular fiction collections.-Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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.

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