Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mrs. Scribe Reviews: The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder



Think Southern Gothic. Without the convoluted familial ties of Faulkner nor the dark brooding nature of Flannery O'Connor. Think Fannie Flagg, of Fried Green Tomatoes fame. Or Lee Smith, author of Oral History and Saving Grace.

Or, think Rebecca Wells. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood doesn't appear in Wells' latest novel, but she certainly has some divine secrets to tell

I've always been partial to Ms. Wells' prose. Even though the 2002 flick conjured from her novel The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood almost ruined a good story for me (Note to self: Never watch a movie before reading the book!), I've always been attracted to Wells and the down-home quality of her writing.

In The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder, Wells captures the essence of Southern female-hood in a way that evokes both empathy (for we of Southern heritage) and sympathy (for those Yankees who wish they were of Southern heritage) at once; her voluptuous, mystical way with words has kept me happily reading through all four of her novels.

When I pick up a work by Rebecca Wells, I'm treated to the Spanish Moss and searing, down-home humidity of her native Louisiana, but to so much more, as well. The sense of style, and of humor, with which we Southern gals face almost all the bad hands that life sometimes deals us come alive in these 391 pages.

Calla Lilly Ponder is our protagonist. She's also on a mission, both to go to beauty school and to find herself. She leaves her tiny bayou home for the big city, only to discover that she already had what she was missing all along.

A little like Dorothy and the Wizard, minus the tornado and Toto, too. But I find Wells' tale perfectly in line with my way of thinking when Calla enlists a gay couple, a childhood friend masquerading as a Playboy Bunny and a Cajun river pilot, among many others, to help her find her way.

Yes, this is a "quest" novel, but instead of Ulysses and his search for "worth and knowledge," you'll learn a lot about one little ol' gal and in the end, something about yourself, as well.

I left Calla Lilly with a profound sense of regret, and a great appreciation for the bayous and the byways of the Louisiana countryside, as well as for the bustle of the Big Easy, New Orleans.

I also found myself thirsty. For a Pat O'Brien's Hurricane, with an orange slice and a cherry on top. Or just wanting to drink at the fountain of my own Southern heritage.

You pick. And even if you don't hail from below the Mason Dixon Line, Cally Lilly and her kin will welcome you with open arms. Their neighborliness and their knowledge of the human condition are their crowning glory.

20 comments:

quilly said...

I absolutely love your prose in this review, and if that book spawned it, I want to read the book, too -- twice! Maybe even twice a day!

Cheryl said...

Love Fanny Flagg so if Wells is as welcoming as she is, I'm in. To hell with the Mason-Dixon line. I'll cross commute.

Amy said...

Sold. I've enjoyed her other books, but it's been a while. Been rereading FGT cause sometimes you just need to hear good Southern women telling you a story.

I have a classmate who, if her book is only getting better, will undoubtedly be the next big Southern writer. Pretty positive about this. If I'm right in however many years, I'll send you the book.

Jennifer said...

I've been dreaming about taking a trip to New Orleans again and you just sold it! I love your description and I feel like I can truly get a sense of the book. There's nothing like the South and this is a book that will be added to my collection.

Tara R. said...

Fortunately I read Ya-Yas before seeing the movie. I enjoy Wells and will be checking out her latest novel. Being from the south, so many of her characters are very familiar to me.

Christina Lee said...

Well, you've sold me!

cat said...

I will write this one down to read. Thanks!

June Freaking Cleaver said...

I'll add this to my TBR list. Until I lived in the South, I thought all these character "types" were fictional...they are NOT.

Ronnica said...

Interesting...going to have to check her out.

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Oh my gosh I love Wells! The Ya Yas was such an amazing book (and I'm so glad I read it BEFORE I saw the movie). I will definitely have to check this book out.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

I've never read a Rebecca Wells book - maybe because I' not southern I never felt drawn towards the prose, but now I'm tempted. Next time I see one of her books at the used book store I'll definitely pick it up.

trish said...

This is the loveliest review of this book I've read! And I see from the comments that others loved your review as well! If I wasn't already interested in reading this, your review would have definitely put me over the edge. :)

Thanks for being on this tour!

Tracie said...

I'll put it on my 'to-read' list. I loved the Ya-Ya's - not so much the sequel though.

Sarah said...

i love those two movies, so i'll pick this one up and add to my amazon cart. thanks!

blueviolet said...

I really am interested in reading this now!!! Calling library now....

The Blonde Duck said...

Calling the library....

paige said...

This sounds like a good one. I'm from the South, too. :)

Jeanie said...

I read it, I loved it, and I loved your review....it makes me want to read it again. Plus, I'm going to New Orleans in June. Here's to Hurricanes, drinks that is, not storms.

dkzody said...

I have this book, sitting on the coffee table, but have never gotten more than 20 or so pages into it. I loved her other books, but this one just doesn't grab me. Maybe I'll try again.

miss jo said...

Thanks for a summer reading recommendation...I enjoy a good Southern tale and really got into the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the book.

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