Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells is a story of complicated relationships between generations of women explored through tears, humor and love.
Sidda Walker is a grown successful woman who at best has a tumultuous relationship with her mother, Vivi and has spent years in therapy trying to make sense of it. Sidda and Vivi have a vicious argument that threatens to destroy their already fragile mother daughter bond. Vivis’s lifelong friends, the Ya Yas intervene, by kidnapping Sidda and try to make her understand this person who is her mother. They stow her away in a cabin and share their lives with her through a scrapbook they have kept chronicling their lives.
While pouring over the collection of treasures from her the Ya Yas, Sidda comes to realize her mother was once a young girl had dreams and aspirations, not unlike her own. Through the scrapbook she learns about the triumphs, tragedies, successes and failures that have made her mother the difficult, but exciting woman she is. She learns of Vivi’s tormented childhood, and her one true love lost. She finds out about a woman who settled for less than she wanted from life and regrets it. Through the Ya Yas she also comes to realize her mother’s darkest secret which leads her to understand the suffering that has contributed to who Vivi is today. Sidda ultimately reaches a place where she can forgive and make peace with her mother. She realizes that the years of therapy were not nearly as healing as was discovering the person her mother is.
This is a book every female should read because at the very least they are a daughter and it is a funny, yet poignant reminder that our mothers are individuals with identities outside of “Mom”. Wells does an excellent job of humanizing Vivi making Sidda realize that she is not only a mother, but a female with desires, heartaches, and a life outside of motherhood. I first read this book in 1997 as the mother of a fourteen year old daughter and now the pages are tattered as I often find solace in it after a particularly trying day in our mother-daughter relationship. As a daughter who is estranged from her mother this book left me wishing I could repair that relationship and the fortitude to take steps to try and assure my daughter never becomes alienated from me.