I usually stay clear of book-club books, unless someone whose reading judgement I trust recommends one. (Mistakenly read because it was popular: Life of Pi... wtf? Read by like-minded friend's recommendation: Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society... fantastic!)I avoided Ya-Ya because it sounded like a 'made for book club' title. When listening to Malcolm Gladwell's audiobook The Tipping Point, I decided to read Ya-Ya when he used it as an example of word-of-mouth success.
I started off quite delighted. Wells has a lush and detailed writing style that brings the South to life. That tide kept me going for a quarter of the book,until I realised that something was wrong and I slowed down. I realized that I liked none of the characters. The main character flops around in her own life, doing nothing but whining, made incapable of moving forward (despite having become professionally very successful and even famous, and in a loving relationship with a good man) because of her mother's strong character and history with childhood girlfriends.
The mother's history unfolds, and all the events ascribed to her could be more believable in someone with multiple personalities. There is too much. I wore out with the whole Ya-Ya group - all odious, selfish man-haters - and I just can't find the drive to finish the book. There are no strong male characters; husbands, sons and lovers are barely mentioned, and they are all submissive non-entities. They've been emasculated by this group of women. The daughter's worship of her mother, or is it her fear, or is it her guilt...would be understandable if the daughter had been emotionally crippled by it since puberty, not suddenly overwhelmed at..what, 40?
Just as Samurai's Garden is told with the sparse beauty of Japanese art,making characters and life lessons memorable, the Divine Secrets lays on story as heavy and overwhelming as the sticky humidity of a Southern summer.
I'm glad for Wells that her book took off. It isn't a bad book, and I love her descriptions and historical references. It is too sweety, heavy and soggy for me.