As I have mentioned before, one of my most favorite books of all time is The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood written by Rebecca Wells and so I was thrilled to be asked to read her latest novel, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder and write a review. Rebecca Wells is a gifted writer and there is something about the way she puts a sentence together that draws me in every time!
Calla Lily Ponder grows up in the small town of La Luna, Louisiana and she narrates her own story from when it began on the day she was born in 1953 until the book closes in 1984. Over these years we hear from Calla Lily herself as her life unfolds. When she is very little she describes her life and describes it with the perceptions of a little girl. We feel the love and the tight bonds she has with her family but especially the special connection between her and her mother. We are there as she grows up in her small town, meets and forms the friendships with her lifelong friends. We are there as she moves through high school and throughout her teen age years. And of course we are there when she falls in love.
Calla Lily Ponder realizes she has a “gift” for doing hair just like her Mother had. She learns more than the basics from her Mother sitting at her side in her mother’s beauty shop and then goes to New Orleans after she graduates from high school to attend beauty school. It is a coming of age story in many ways and a lot of the story is set in the 1970’s. I got a kick out of all the fun references and descriptions of the fads and fashion of that time. You can feel the heat and humidity of New Orleans and smell the beignets in the air. Life, love, and loss are all here with more life and love thrown in.
While it is hard not to compare this latest novel from Rebecca Wells to her hugely successful “The Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”, the books are really quite different. Both books are set in the South, and the love and fun of the friendships between the women is delightful in both books, but for me, that is where the similarities end. Heavier topics like the loss of a loved one and alcoholism make an appearance in both books but here in Calla Lily’s story, you do not have the gut-wrenching sadness and grief nor the serious consequences that you find in “Divine Secrets”. The deepness of the friendships and sense of connection that the women in the Ya Ya’s had is quite different from what I felt reading The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder. Calla Lily Ponder’s book is lighter.
This book is what I would call a great “Beach read”. And the book is now out in paperback just in time for packing in your vacation tote! :) So while the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood swallowed me whole, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder entertained me. And sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered! It’s a fun story, it makes you laugh, makes you shed a few tears, but in the end you feel like you really know Calla Lily Ponder and the world she lives in. So to answer the questions of did I like the book and would I recommend it????? I say YES to both!
Here are a couple of clips of Rebecca Wells herself telling us about her book The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder.
Are you part of a Book Club???? Book Club Girl is running a contest from now until October where if your club is one of the fist 25 Book Clubs to commit to reading Rebecca Wells’ new book “The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder”, your group will win a King Cake to enjoy during your meeting from Randazzo’s Bakery in New Orleans!!! Stop by Book Club Girl for more details. Mmmmm……..