Rebecca Wells' debut novel, later expanded into Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, introduces readers to the Walker clan of Thornton, Louisiana. The family's stories are divulged as a sequence of vignettes, each told in earthy first-person and full of dialects, humor, and detail.
The four Walker children, Siddalee, Little Shep, Lulu, and Baylor, tell stories of their Southern Catholic upbringing during the early 1960's, describing shoplifting exploits, parental abuse, Girl Scout outings, piano lessons, Grandma Buggy's insane poodle, and of course, adventures with their mother's friends the Ya-Yas. Flamboyant matriarch Vivi narrates two memoirs about the struggles of marriage and motherhood; her husband, Big Shep, tells stories of plantation farming and of serving on the Draft Board of the Vietnam War. The Walkers' maid, Willetta, and her farmhand husband Chaney provide an intimate outsider's point of view.
The vignettes at the end of the book are set in the early 1990's. The Walker children have established lives of their own, and their parents have stayed on Pecan Grove plantation, where the scarred family is briefly reunited for the baptism of Baylor's baby daughter.
This report prepared by Jacqueline West