Divine Secrets

of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

This 1996 novel written by Rebecca Wells chronicles the complicated relationship between Viviane Walker and her daughter, Siddalee. It is set in 1993 but much of the book is spent in the past, as Sidda learns about her mother’s life through the scrapbook of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. When Sidda's play gets reviewed in the New York Times, the reporter presents an especially harsh view of Vivi as a mother and she takes it personally. She is publicly called a “tap dancing child abuser of a mother” and the novel opens with a fight between Sidda and Vivi. The first impression of Vivi is that she is a slightly crazed, dramatic, outspoken woman who clearly believes she did not deserve such a harsh review as a mother. It is clear that Sidda’s relationship with her mother is strained and that she sees Vivi as frightening and self-centered. Despite their dysfunctional love for each other, it is clear that Sidda’s opinion of Vivi as a mother is not a positive one. Here, the mother figure is painted in a very dark light, as irresponsible and self-centered.

However, this is not the ultimate message about motherhood in Divine Secretes of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. As Sidda begins to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past by reading her old scrapbook she also reflects on her own childhood, eventually understanding that her mother is a person too, who dealt with a great deal of sadness. When Sidda learns about her mother’s upbringing, another mother is introduced in the story- Buggy, Sidda’s grandmother. She was a devout Catholic, always in conflict with Vivi’s father, and extremely jealous of his favoritism toward Vivi. Here, the mother is portrayed again as slightly crazed, but far more submissive than Vivi.

A large source of Vivi’s discontent and sadness is the loss of her true love, Jack. He promises her the world, but when he enlists during World War II, he dies in a plane crash, leaving her to settle in the arms of Shep, Sidda’s father. Vivi’s depression after losing Jack is one of the reasons that she is so distant toward her children, causing her to drink to excess, and eventually physically lash out at her children when she has a mental break.

Ultimately, as Sidda reads more and more of the scrapbook and learns about her mother and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, she begins to see that her mother was doing the best that she could. Sidda says, “My mother's love is not perfect. My mother's love is good enough. My lover's love is good enough. Maybe I am good enough.” Instead of trying to understand her mother, and herself, Sidda reaches a place of acceptance by the end of the novel, leaving the reader with a portrayal of motherhood that I think a lot of people experience. Mothers are all people outside of their role as “mom”, and Sidda accepts that her mother’s actions, although destructive, were ultimately coming from a place of love, and that she was doing her very best.

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