Writer, actor, and playwright Rebecca Wells is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Ya-Yas in Bloom, Little Altars Everywhere, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which was made into a feature film. A native of Louisiana, she now lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
The lineage of Wells's first novel can be traced directly to the ``adult children'' literature that has gained popularity in recent years. ``I have one main rule for myself these days: Don't hit the baby. It means: Don't hurt the baby that is me. Don't beat up on the little one who I'm learning to hold and comfort . . . ,'' Siddalee says in the book's final chapter. Her voice, like those of the lesser narrators (sister, two brothers, parents, grandmother, blacks who work for the family), sounds increasingly contrived as the book progresses. The structure doesn't help matters, allocating one or two chapters to most characters--in Part I showing Siddalee and her siblings as children in Louisiana in the 1960s, in Part II the same characters 30 years later. Attempts at black dialect or small-town Louisiana slang are also superficial. The entire book consists of retellings, with little room (or incentive) for readers to share the action. There are some wonderful sections, such as when the grandmother's lap dog has a ``hysterectomy,'' then learns to put dolls to bed as if they were her children, but such moments cannot sustain the reader's interest through more than 200 pages. (Aug.)
"Rebecca Wells has written a funny, eloquent and sad novel that
easily leaps regional bounds."--Washington Post
"Wells effectively juxtaposes the innocence and joy of childhood reveries with the pain and guilt of adult memories."--Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Wells' people pop with life."--Kirkus Reviews
"A gem of a book....Wells offers a virtuoso performance."--Denver Post
"At the Walker family altar, sainthood is a one-way ticket to purgatory, and getting there is half the fun."--Columbus Dispatch
"A hilarious and heartbreaking first novel."--Booklist
"Energetic and delicious...each voice is unique, independent and right on."--Seattle Times
Wells's literary and theatrical talents are apparent in her account of the trials and triumphs of a fascinating but extremely dysfunctional family. Each chapter is told from the point-of-view of a different character, and Wells's provocative performance transforms the novel into a compelling one-woman show. Though Shep Walker, his wife, Vivi, and their four children derive a good living from Pecan Grove, 900 acres of rich Louisiana farmland, they are most successful at exacting and enduring suffering. Deceptively simple with its first-person narratives and everyday-language, the story explores such weighty issues as the loss of innocence, the traditional roles of women in the South, and the plight of farmers. Considering the phenomenal popularity of the companion novel, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, this is an essential purchase for all popular fiction collections.ÄBeth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.