Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Wells, Rebecca

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Mar-08-2004


This is the story of Siddalee Walker's desperate search to understand the life of her outrageous, melodramatic, beautiful, alcoholic mother, Vivi. Now a 40-year-old successful director, Sidda is estranged from Vivi because of a too-frank newspaper interview that characterized Vivi as a loving, outrageously creative, abusive mother. Putting her engagement on hold, Sidda hides away in a cabin in the northwest with the only thing her mother concedes in Sidda's efforts to make up: a scrapbook that chronicles Vivi's life with three other spirited Southern belle renegades, the Ya-Yas.

Thus, the story unfolds with scrapbook versions of Vivi's rigid Catholic upbringing and the beginnings of the Ya-Ya sisterhood, through their adolescence and bayou debutante years, through their marriages and mothering the Petites Ya-Yas. Living her mother's life through the scrapbook and with a little help from the now 60-something Ya-Yas, Sidda comes to understand her mother's character with all its lavish, passionate, sorrowful, and always humorous dimensions.


The covers of this book can barely contain the energy, eccentricities, scandalous adventures of four women caught in a time warp somewhere between Southern belle etiquette and in-your-face, feminist performances. The strength of the book is clearly in the tapestry of Ya-Ya stories portraying the intensity and durability of friendship among women, and of the complicated difficulties between mothers and daughters that never seem to go away.

Much of the book is very funny--a cross somewhere between the humor and outrageousness of Rita Mae Brown and the dark side of Flannery O'Connor. The weakness of the book is its unevenness--the frequent swings between dialogue that is just right and that which is absolutely cliched. Still, it is a book that is difficult to put down. It would work especially well in a class on families, mother-daughter relationships, and alcoholism/mental illness.


The film, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), is based on this novel and another novel by Rebecca Wells, Little Altars Everywhere.



Place Published

New York



Page Count