Psychological Book Review: Rebecca Wells Divine Secrets Book Review

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Psychological Book Review:

Rebecca Wells Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Culture and generational attitudes may separate them. Memories of physical abuse may be painful and real. Geography may keep them apart -- to say nothing of nasty quotations out of context by Northern reporters -- but mothers and daughters, particularly Southern mothers and daughters have an indissoluble bond -- as do Southern women friends. Although Southern girls may rebel, they always do so in reaction to their mother's value structures, and thus they remain frozen in the dialectic of ladylikeness vs. being a free and wild woman. Being a wild woman and getting the man you deserve, of course, though will always win out. Or, so suggests Rebecca Wells' Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

The best selling book, later made into a popular film, tells the story of Vivi and Siddalee Walker, two Southern women, a mother and daughter of two apparently very different generations, one of the Gone with the Wind era's popularity in the South, the other of the contemporary North. Vivi was mentally ill; the result of her own painful upbringing, and at turns abusive and loving to her young daughter. Siddalee embarks upon a spiritual quest, at one point baptizing herself, to free herself from the past. But only by coming to terms with the past through photographs, clippings, and news articles, as well as recounted memories of her mother's friends, can she move on into a brighter and more positive future.
The book thus tells the tale of the conflict between Vivi and Siddalee through a series of flashbacks from today back to 1932 Louisiana when Vivi was involved in tap dancing, obsessed with emulating Shirley Temple, and hanging out with a crew of women known as the 'ya-ya' sisterhood. Although the estranged mother and daughter's present day argument is touched off by New York Times review where in an interview her daughter's comments result in a reference to Vivi as a "tap-dancing child abuser," clearly the conflict is much deeper, stretching back to Vivi's own childhood. The sarcastic reference to Southern womanhood as dancing and abusing also suggests the tone deaf ear of the Northern world of Southern California in which Siddalee now dwells does not contain the necessary elements to help her come to terms with her mother, her past, and her regional identity as a Southern woman.

Siddalee is so conflicted about her past the girl is getting cold feet about her impending and long-anticipated marriage. She is about to be married to a man she loves but fears she is not worthy of, even though Siddalee, is beautiful, kind and a successful theatre director and Connor McGill loves her back and is a good (and good-looking) man. But she is convinced that she is out of her league because her eccentric upbringing means that she cannot give her future husband the home Connor deserves, the type of home she desired when she was growing….....

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