Sunday, May 15, 2016

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells

At first, I picked this book because of its blue cover...and it's on the Rory Gilmore List...But THEN I discovered that in the split narrative, part of it takes place in my home state! And I had been having trouble finding one in that category for the 2016 Reading Challenge. So this is my home state book. The part that takes place in WA.

So split narrative, between Sidda (Siddalee) who is nearing 40, a successful woman in the theater business writing/directing, and split with her mother Vivi, in Cenla (Central Louisiana). Vivi's portions are split between her childhood, teenage years, and current mother to 40 year old Sidda.

I give this 3.5 stars (3 on Goodreads) because it was gripping, entertaining, I have a STRONG urge to start using y'all in my everyday vocabulary (something I haven't done since hanging out with my friend Carolyn in middle/high school-she had transplanted from Texas in the 8th grade), it was poignant, beautiful, tragic, and vivid. BUT it did have quite a bit of language. It had a few too many scenes where Wells kept reminding you that the character was naked (I didn't need that THIRD reminder), and the naked parts didn't make sense. Seriously, would a 40 yr old woman wander around naked in a garden at a hotel in the middle of the night??

So anyhow, Vivi has disowned Sidda because in an interview in the New York Times, Sidda mentioned some of the less wonderful things about her mother, and her mother gets called "A tap dancing child abuser." Vivi has 3 best friends, Teensy, Niece, and Caro, who have been friends since their earliest days and call themselves the Ya-Yas. They grew up together, had kids at the same time, called all their kids the Petites Ya-Yas and it was like one big extended family. Vivi's mother, called Buggy, was a staunch Catholic with no sense of humor at all. I have to say I prefered EVERYTHING written from Vivi's point of view to Sidda's. I'm not sure why, but it just resonated more with me. I felt like Sidda was missing something (which she was). Sidda begged her mom to share with her some of the "divine secrets" of the Ya Yas. How was it that her mother had 3 best friends who were better than sisters, and Sidda didn't have any close girlfriends? Vivi eventually sends her a scrapbook with a bunch of stuff, newspaper clippings, photographs, letters. And Sidda unravels her mother's past and gains the insight and understanding she needs to truly love her mother.

I can't write a lot more without too many spoilers, but I can tell you that I was SO heartbroken to read about a time when women and depression/anxiety were not well treatable. The medication they had access to did more harm than good, and it was a condition not even understood at all. Having experienced post partum depression and anxiety I am so grateful it happened to me in a time when societal norms were starting to shift and it was becoming less of a shame to have it and to be able to be understood and TREATED.

This book also made me think about WHY in the DEVIL do we insist on hiding things from others? From the people we love? Experiences that IF we were to know about and understand could HELP those relationships to be what I'm sure both parties really want it to be? If Sidda knew what her mother had gone through in childhood, in her teen years (especially when her mother sent her away to that God forsaken Catholic boarding school that nearly killed her), the grief and despair she had be privy to, just knowing that her mother had had a mental hurdle to overcome, she could have UNDERSTOOD and none of the crazy bad stuff in their relationship would have happened.

I also liked how this novel showed that in order for reconciliation to occur, BOTH parties need to make an effort. The one who had done the wrong needed to repeatedly apologize and show in both written/spoken words and actions her penance. And the other side needed to accept it (eventually).

And finally, I think the loveliest of lessons: Yes, there were some real bad things. Yes, Vivi did some horrible wrong things. But she did some right things too. And Sidda had spent too long focusing only on the things that had been done wrong. And I know I'm guilty of that too. I feel like sometimes the negative things a person has done outweigh the things they do right. Something about the weight of certain wrong things seem more of an issue. But I can see that I really ought not do that. EVERYONE has things they do wrong, and EVERYONE has things they do right. And I want people to give me grace and not focus on those wrong things, and if I want that, I need to extend that same grace to others, especially to family. It's definitely something I'm going to be working on.

In this book I laughed, I cried (oh how I cried!!), I cringed, I was appalled, heart broken, thinking constantly in a southern drawl. I would definitely recommend this book to others if you can skim over the language and a few scenes. I'm grateful for the lessons I learned. And I wish I could meet the Ya-Yas!

Looking up the picture for this post, I found out it's a movie! (And only PG-13), so I'll see if it's at the library so I can watch it :-)

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