In 1996’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (after 1992’s Little Altars Everywhere) a quartet of Louisiana women—Vivi, Caro, Teensy, and Necie—made imperfect friendship, marriage, and motherhood seem like one fabulous adventure. This sequel, which again features the flamboyant Vivi, explains how these larger-than-life women met as children in 1930 (through Teensy, who stuffed a pecan up her nose) and became vivacious sister-friends. As they age, their tales encompass the exploits of their own children, the Petites Ya-Yas, and grandchildren, the Très Petites. But in this follow-up, a terrible crime overshadows their previous crises of parenting, alcoholism, relationships, and faith.
HarperCollins. 255 pages. $24.95.
"But what if many women—even if they want equal pay for equal work—want window seats more, and the leisure to use them, and grandmas who love them and sew them handmade dresses? Martha Stewart exploits some of these yearnings, but she leaves out affection, protection, vision." Carolyn See
Detroit Free Press
"This latest has slightly less plot than the others, which means it has practically none, just rollicking anecdotes about a quartet of crazy Louisiana women and their decades-enduring friendship. However, if you have no idea what a Ya-Ya is, pass on by." Marta Salij
Rocky Mountain News
"... I grew weary trying to figure out who was speaking and in what decade, as the book hopscotched into little essays everywhere, losing its cohesiveness as a novel." Lynn Bronikowski
"While it is nice to revisit familiar characters, Ya-Yas in Bloom lacks much of the energy and the darker shading that made The Divine Secrets compelling." Robin Vidimos
"[I]t is probably fair to announce that the charm of the clichéd Iron Butterfly Southern woman, promulgated in stage and screen and fiction, continues to mystify this reviewer." Melinda Bargreen
"[A]fter a while, the children seem more spoiled than special, and their parents’ defense of their actions irritating instead of endearing. … Or perhaps it’s the book’s fictional inconsistency: a story from the past, then a present-day one; a madcap mood one page, a serious passage on the next." Michele Ross
"How many madcap adventures can one set of women have? … Wells is forced to make these stories fit with the material in earlier books, most of which had a more organic feel." Katie Schneider
Critics generally agree that the bloom may have left the Ya-Yas. The novel, a collection of vignettes about "the time that [insert: ‘it snowed,’ or ‘we drove to Houston for the Beatles concert’]," is more hodge-podge than its predecessors. The Ya-Yas’ antics seem stale, their child-raising overprotective. Too many characters, a confusing chronological mix of stories, and a muddled tone give the work an ad-hoc feel. Some bright spots will please fans, however. The dialogue and details continue to allure, and The Washington Post praised the novel for its "subversive," hell-raising women. "But it’s not the kind of book," says the Denver Post, "that will be passed from reader to reader, like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."