"Life is not a book," says Vivi Walker, the heroine of LITTLE ALTARS EVERYWHERE and DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD. "You can't just set it down on the coffee table and walk away from it when it gets boring or you get tired."
The one thing Vivi Walker does not do is walk away from life. She embraces it all--the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly in her own inimitable fashion, which includes wearing Rich Girl Red nail polish and taking a thermos of grapefruit juice and vodka along on a girl scout camping trip.
Sharing every moment of the ups and downs of her life are the Ya Yas--Vivi's closest friends--women who broke the no-booze rule at the cotillion skinny-dipped their way to jail in the town water towner, disrupted the Shirley Temple look-alike contest, and bonded for life because, as one says, "It's so much fun being a bad girl!"
And trying to make sense of it all is Sidalee, Vivi's daughter, the narrator of both of Rebecca Well's hilarious novels.
In LITTLE ALTARS EVERYWHERE, Sidalee recounts the trials and tribulations of growing up with a mother like Vivi. She recounts the story of the year Vivi decided to become a girl scout leader (Vivi immediately redesigned the uniforms and scrapped merit badges). When Sidalee complained because she was about to win the Advanced Cooking Badge, Vivi said, "don't ever admit you know a thing about cooking or it'll be used against you in later life."
DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD continues the saga. Sidalee is now an adult, trying to cope with her conflicted feelings about her mother. After an argument with Vivi, she retreats to a friend's home in the Pacific Northwest to try and make sense of the relationship she has with her mother. While leafing through a scrapbook filled with letters and clippings chronicling the lives and times of the Ya-Yas, Sidalee begins to understand what Vivi meant when she said one could never walk away from life.
Near the end of the novel, Sidalee says, "I will never fully know my mother.... The point is not knowing another person, or learning to love another person. The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be? What good manners can we show as we welcome ourselves nd others into our hearts?"
LITTLE ALTERS EVERYWHERE and DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD touch on every emotion you have involving childhood, parenthood, and motherhood. Funny, poignant, at times, unbearably sad, they are must reading for anyone who has ever pondered family relationships.
Reviewed by Judith Handschuh on January 21, 2011
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood