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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Page 40

Rebecca Wells

  The deep kindness in his eyes, the tenderness in his voice erased any smidgen of doubt that she had made the right decision.

  By noon, they were at Pecan Grove, drinking iced tea with Vivi and Shep on the back patio. Willetta was also in attendance, to witness Siddalee Walker’s announcement that she would marry Connor McGill in exactly seven days in the sunflower field in front of her parents’ home. Within approximately thirty minutes, three cars appeared in the drive. The Ya-Yas had arrived.

  Now the show could get on the road.


  In her father’s field of sunflowers, early on the evening of October 25, wearing her mother’s wedding dress, Siddalee Walker said yes to Connor McGill.

  Surrounded by her parents; her brothers and their families; her sister, Lulu (who’d flown home from Paris); the Ya-Yas; the Petites Ya-Yas and their families; Willetta and her family; her friend May Sorenson (who’d arrived at the last moment from Turkey); Connor’s parents, one grandparent, and two sisters; Wade Coenen (who’d escorted Hueylene, and who had recut Vivi’s wedding dress so that it plunged and dipped and showed Sidda’s shoulders); and a host of other friends who’d rearranged their lives to fly to Thornton on a week’s notice, Siddalee Walker said to Connor McGill: “I will love you with tenderness in the best way I know how.”

  Sidda’s seven-year-old niece Caitlin Walker, one of Baylor’s twins, was responsible for the fact that all the children (and also several of the adults) were wearing Halloween costumes. A stranger happening on the ceremony might have mistaken the gathering for a well-heeled group of pagan worshippers, if it hadn’t been for the fact that Teensy’s cousin was playing “Amazing Grace” on a Cajun fiddle.

  At the party afterward, that same fiddler and the rest of his band—Alligator Gris-Gris—played a combination of Cajun and Zydeco, mixed in with old standards from the forties they’d been forced to learn in order to make a living on the South Louisiana country-club circuit. Under the huge, old live oak, which Baylor had strung with a million tiny Christmas lights, Shep Walker supervised a cochon de lait, delighting the New Yorkers with heaping plates of roast pig and dirty rice. Willetta’s husband, Chaney, stood over a huge black kettle filled with fresh shrimp, and long tables stacked with fresh French bread, salad, and a thousand Louisiana specialties lined the dance area.

  Sunflowers and zinnias, which Necie had arranged, were everywhere, and bales of hay circled a bonfire tended by Little Shep. The weather was perfect, with just a little nip in the air, so everybody could dance without getting too sweaty. It was about as loose and happy a wedding party as folks had ever witnessed.

  Midway through the party, once everyone had eaten, the band stopped playing, and the squeeze-box accordion player announced that a special treat was in store. With that, he stepped aside and introduced the four Ya-Yas.

  Stepping up to the microphone, Vivi Abbott Walker lifted her glass of champagne to the heavens, winked, and said: “Siddalee Dahlin, this song is for you.”

  After taking a healthy sip of the champagne, Vivi signaled to the others. Then, in four-part Ya-Ya harmony, accompanied by a fiddle, accordion, and bass, the four old friends began to sing. Their voices were not particularly fine, their harmony was a little slippery. But when they opened their mouths, what came out was part lullaby, part love song, part benediction. They sang:

  Nights are long since you went away,

  I think about you all through the day,

  My buddy, my buddy,

  No buddy quite so true.

  Miss your voice, the touch of your hand,

  Just long to know that you understand,

  My buddy, my buddy,

  Your buddy misses you.

  By the time the song was over, Sidda had reconciled herself to the fact that in every single one of her wedding pictures her face would be streaked by long black threads of mascara from crying so much. When her father came up from behind and handed her his handkerchief, she was grateful.

  “Your mama and them were still rehearsing when I went to bed last night,” Shep said.

  Sidda looked at her father and smiled. “Thank you for growing those sunflowers, Daddy,” she said.

  “You know that’s my second crop this year. Don’t know what possessed me to grow sunflowers this late in the season. I caught a lot of ribbing about growing flowers after spending my whole life growing money crops clear up to the front door. That was a different time in my life, though. I had four of yall to feed, buy cars for, send through college. Now I grow things for different reasons. Still, I’m glad you and Con came along and made it look like those sunflowers have some reason for being there. Keeps me from looking like I’ve gone all soft. Got to keep up my image, you know.”

  Sidda reached up and gently wiped the tears away from her father’s cheeks. “I love you, Daddy.”

  “I hope your marriage is a good one, Baby doll,” he said. “Maybe we can all be more like a family now, if you know what I mean.”

  “Yes, Daddy,” Sidda said, linking her arm with her father’s, “I know what you mean.”

  “Don’t you think it’s time for a father-daughter dance?” Vivi said as she stepped up. She gave Sidda a kiss on the cheek, then kissed her husband. “I think what the American family needs is more dancing, don’t yall?”

  Sidda looked first at her mother, then at her father. “I think you’re right, Mama. In fact, I think somebody should include that in a presidential platform.”

  As the band kicked back in, Vivi took Sidda’s face in hers and kissed her once more. Then, taking Sidda’s hand and placing it in Shep’s, she gave them a little push toward the dance floor.

  “Shake a tail feather, Dahlins!” she said. “Cut a rug!”

  With that, Vivi went off in search of the Ya-Yas, and soon the four of them were dancing together, their dresses swirling, their eyes shining.

  After the wedding cake (baked by Willetta and decorated by her daughter Pearl with Halloween colors) was cut, everybody hit the dance floor again. Even though it was getting late, and the toddlers were sleepy-eyed, nobody wanted to leave Pecan Grove Plantation. Nobody wanted to stop celebrating. Instead they stayed and danced. They waltzed, they jerked, they Cajun two-stepped, they mash-potatoed, they jitterbugged, they fox-trotted, they boogied their little hearts out.

  From her perch on the crescent of the harvest moon, the Holy Lady looked down and smiled at her imperfect children. The angels attending her that night felt little twinges of longing to be in human form, if for only a few minutes. They wanted to rock, they wanted to roll, they wanted to feel the peculiarly human feeling of having a perfect night in an imperfect world. They wanted to taste the saltiness of tears the way Sidda did, the way Vivi did, the way—if truth be told—almost everyone did on the night Sidda Walker wed Connor McGill.

  So it is when an umbilical cord of love flows up from the earth and down from the sky. So it is sometimes near Halloween in the State of Louisiana when the divisions between heaven and earth crack open a little and spirits gather from all over. Perhaps the souls of Sidda’s twin and Jack and Genevieve Whitman joined in the festivities that night. Perhaps little unborn spirits in the cracked hearts of each of the guests were called forth. When the dancers spoke, breathless, happy, in between songs, they told each other the night was charmed. They told each other it felt like some kind of spell had been put on them.

  To this the Blessed Mother only winked. To this she would only say, “Them that know don’t tell; and them that tell don’t know.”

  For Siddalee Walker, the need to understand had passed, at least for the moment. All that was left was love and wonder.


  With special thanks to the following:

  MAURA HOLBERT-HOGABOOM, my mentor, whose love, acceptance and inspiration has taught me how wide and sweet and wild motherhood—and sisterhood—can be.

  TERRY GIBSON, a lighthouse with a steady beam.

  DIANE REVERAND, my editor, who intuitively and enthusiasti
cally embraced the Ya-Yas when this book was a bébé.

  JANE ISAY, unbidden angel, who appeared, and, with great kindness, helped me refine and structure my thoughts.

  DONNA LAMBDIN, Louisiana Sister, and BOB CORBETT, who introduced me to Lake Quinault.

  JAN CONSTANTINE, for her generous advice and friendship.

  TOM WELLS, my brother, whom I love.

  Note to the Reader

  I am grateful to Liz Huddle and Burke Walker, who shared their experiences of being stage directors with me and thus helped shape the character of Sidda Walker.

  I will always be thankful to Adrienne Rich for her seminal book, Of Woman Born, which inspired and coached me as I wrote this novel. Thanks also to Diane Ackerman, whose ability to express the beauty of the physical world woke me up. I thank Denise Levertov for her poem, “The Annunciation,” which sparks the Holy Lady to show up sometimes when the moon is right.

  I’m grateful to Weavings for publishing “Forgiveness: The Name of Love in a Wounded World,” an essay by Henri Nouwen. I’m grateful to The Sun for its wonderful “Sunbeams,” which published both the Mary Antin and H. L. Mencken quotes that are used as epigraphs.

  About the Author

  A native of Louisiana, Rebecca Wells is an actor and playwright in addition to being the author of the phenomenal bestsellers Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Her works for the stage include Splittin’ Hairs and Gloria Duplex, for which she created the lead roles. She has received numerous awards, including the Western States Book Award for Little Altars Everywhere and the 1999 Adult Trade ABBY Award for Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Please visit

  Visit for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.

  Praise for

  Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

  “One heck of a rollicking good read . . .”

  Columbus Dispatch

  “The sweet and sad and goofy monkey-dance of life,as performed by a bevy of unforgettable Southern belles in a verdant garden of moonlit prose. Poignantly coo-coo, the Ya-Yas (and their Petites Ya-Yas) will prance, priss, ponder, and party their way into your sincere affection.”

  Tom Robbins, author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

  “An entertaining and engrossing novel filled with humor and heartbreak. . . . Readers will envy Vivi her Ya-Ya ‘sisters’ and Sidda her lover, who is one of the most appealing men to be found in recent mainstream fiction.”

  Library Journal

  “Hard to resist. . . .Wells offers up some appealing characters and good stories.”

  Chicago Tribune

  “Every woman should have a pack of buddies like the Ya-Yas.”

  Albuquerque Journal

  “Mary McCarthy, Anne Rivers Siddons, and a host of others have portrayed the power and value of female friendships, but no one has done it with more grace, charm, talent, and power than Rebecca Wells does in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

  Richmond Times-Dispatch

  “There are echoes here of Sheila Bosworth’s unforgettable heroines, struggling to find sure footing on a slippery dance floor, and the wild and funny escapades of Ellen Gilchrist’s characters, as well as the irrepressible humor and female loyalty of Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. But Wells’ voice is uniquely her own, funny and generous and full of love and heartbreak, in that grand Louisiana literary tradition of transforming family secrets into great stories.”

  New Orleans Times-Picayune

  “An enjoyable novel with much to recommend it. . . . It is rich stuff and Wells tells it well.”

  Seattle Times

  “I read the first two pages and I said . . . I haven’t heard a white woman talk like this in literature before.”

  Terry McMillan, San Francisco Chronicle

  “Not since young men started wearing yellow trousers àla Goethe’s Werther has a book had somuch of a real-life influence on readers.”

  The Globe and Mail

  “Unforgettable. . . .By turns comic and poignant,Wells’ latest entry fulfills the promiseof her award-winning debut novel, Little Altars Everywhere. It speaks eloquently to what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a wife—and somehow, at last, a person.”

  Charlotte Observer

  “Wells’ Louisiana is thick with sensual excesses—bayou French, pralines and sour cream cookies, crayfish étouffée, honeysuckle-smothered trellises, camellias and jasmine. . . . In Divine Secrets, you can hear the ice cubes clink on every page. . . . Wells’ book succeeds marvelously.”

  Seattle Weekly

  “Sensitive, spellbinding . . . a wonderfully irreverent look at life insmall-town Louisiana from the thirties on upthrough the eyes of the Ya-Yas, a gang of merry, smart, brave, poignant, and unforgettable goddesses.”


  “Readers who like their books about the human condition spiced with a Southern drawl won’t want to miss this one.”

  Mississippi Sun Herald

  Books by Rebecca Wells





  Cover art and design © Divine Ink, Inc.


  This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Deep Purple, music by Peter DeRose, lyrics by Mitchell Parish. Copyright © 1934, 1939 (renewed 1962, 1967) EMI Robbins Catalog Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc.

  My Buddy, by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. Copyright © 1922 Warner Bros. Inc. (renewed). Rights for extended renewal term in U.S. controlled by Gilbert Keyes Music and Donaldson Publishing Co. All rights for the rest of the world controlled by Warner Bros. Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc.

  DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD. Copyright © 1996 by Rebecca Wells. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

  Adobe Digital Edition May 2009 ISBN 978-0-06-174336-8

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