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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood By Rebecca Wells Harpercollins 1996 Reviewed by Kate McGinnity In her second novel Rebecca Wells takes us back in time to a strongly bonded group of Southern women whose escapades and unconditional love for one another charm us and touch our hearts The close-knit sisterhood Ya-Yas of Vivi Walker and friends begins in high school in 1930s Louisiana and continues through adulthood child-rearing days and twilight years But it is Vivis 1990s adult daughter Siddalee who sets the novel in motion with her decision to write a play based on her mothers Ya-Ya past Siddalee requests the treasured scrapbook Divine Secrets her mother has been keeping for years thus setting the stage for our glimpses into Vivis journals and letters While Siddalee searches for a script in the pages of memories we are treated to images of another time marked by brightly colored toenail polish cigarettes and Bloody Marys convertible cars crammed with kids and summers at the lake A highlight is an extended sequence detailing the excitement and glamour leading up to the Atlanta Georgia premiere of Gone With the Wind in December 1939 Wells is a wonderful storyteller and easily weaves back and forth between Ya-Ya history and present time Many of the novels memories are double-edged we have a window into Siddalee coming to terms with the pain of her childhood and the challenging relationship with her mother The real achievement here is the ability to tell this story without an excess of judgment or moralizing Like Mary Karrs extraordinary memoir The Liars Club Wellss novel shows us the American family far beyond the taint of mere dysfunction as its members struggle through abuse and mental illness We come to love these survivors and to realize that even the most extreme human behavior is still very human and very much a part of our collective 20th century experience With the exception
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