I feel like it is almost impossible to have lived in the United States since the publication of Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood without having heard about the book. Rebecca Wells’s novel seems to have slipped into our pop culture consciousness. I have heard about and seen this book several times over the past few years, but I never thought about reading it. I’m not really sure why. You would think that after running into it so many times, I would give it a shot, but I didn’t until I saw it on the Rory Gilmore reading list. Quite soon after seeing it on the list, I found a copy at Goodwill. After that, I proceeded to dwell with the book for several days.
I took the book with me when I went to visit my grandmother, who died last week, in the hospital. While reading the book over that weekend, I was struck by how Vivi’s friendships sometimes reminded me of my grandma’s friendship with one of her oldest friends. With my grandma in Ohio and her friend in Florida, their friendship was not exactly like the Ya-yas in that they couldn’t just pop by. They did, however, unabashedly share their lives together. Every night at precisely 5 o’clock, they would be on the phone ready for a two-hour discussion of what happened between the phone calls. Every night! I always thought that was beautiful. While going through grandma’s house after she died, I found letters, cards from flowers, and pictures sent by her friend over the years throughout the house. Obviously, these treasures also struck me as very similar to the Ya-yas. Again, I found myself amazed, comforted, and happy that my grandma had such a close friend.
After I finished the book, I immediately texted my own best friend to ask her if she had read it and to inform her it had me all up in my damn feelings. It really did. The writing is not by any means perfect, but it is still a powerfully emotional story. I liked the explorations of love in all its forms (mother-daughter, marriage, and friendship). The characters weren’t easy to like or dislike; they were simply themselves, people and not characters. Some aspects of the book are cliche while some are original. I think the book is popular for good reason, and I highly recommend it to be read and shared with your best friends.
Not everyone would agree with my assessment of the book. I was utterly surprised at the scathing Goodreads reviews. I mean some people hated this book. Some went so far as to call people who liked it ridiculous (paraphrasing there). I felt a few of the reviews, like the ones expecting this book to be the Next Great American Novel, were misguided while others expressed some fair points for not enjoying the book (these were usually calmer, more level-headed responses to a book). Wells isn’t Shakespeare, and I don’t think she was trying to be. I think she was just trying to work through ideas about love and friendship, and she wanted to entertain us along the way. The novel is great for that (many on Goodreads did agree with that point). If you want tension in your entertainment, definitely read this novel and then the reviews. You won’t be disappointed.