I did not know much about Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells, when I picked it off the shelf at the library. I knew it had been a bestseller (advertised on the cover, in fact), and that a movie had been made from it. What little I had heard about the story itself had given me the vague impression that it wouldn’t interest me, but I was looking for a good novel and decided to give it a shot. Once I started reading, I could hardly put the book down. It was completely engrossing and much better than I had hoped for. In fact, it was the best book I have read in quite a while.
I am a little surprised that so many of the reviews on Amazon, including the Amazon.com review itself, treat the book as somewhat frivolous, tossing it off as an easy light read that is good but has a contrived premise. I completely disagree with this interpretation of the novel. The primary storyline concerns a 40-year woman who is trying to reconcile her conflicted relationship with her mother, Vivi, who has her own issues from her child and young adult-hood. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood is the name of the tightly-knit group consisting of Vivi and her three best girl-friends. True, some of the antics of the Ya-Yas are a bit wacky, but the book is by no means frivolous. It deals with the subjects of abuse, neglect, and alcoholism in a sensitive, probing, and psychologically accurate way. One of the most troubling and moving passages for me was when Vivi discusses in the first person a time when she gave in to her desire to escape from her children and actually ran away for a few days. The writing itself is almost sensual and effectively conveys nuances in the character’s feelings and actions. The story jumps back and forth between different time periods and different narrative perspectives, allowing the reader to understand the motivations behind multiple character’s actions.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood drew me in so completely that I spend two entire weekday evenings doing almost nothing else. Shutting the book and looking up at my forgotten surroundings felt like surfacing from an emotional rollarcoaster. I highly recommend this novel.