Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells
hardcover, 416 pages
HarperCollins Publishers, July 2009
ISBN-13: 9780060175313
highly recommended

Synopsis from the publisher:
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the sweet, sexy, funny tale of Calla Lily's life set in Wells' ever-growing fictional Louisiana. In the small river town of La Luna, Calla Lily enjoys a blissful childhood under the loving light of the Moon Lady, the feminine force that will guide her throughout her life. From her mother, M'Dear, Calla learns the old, womanly art of healing through "fixing hair."
On the same river banks, Calla tastes the sweetness of first love. But when a broken heart knocks the breath out of her, Calla transforms hurt into inspiration and heads for the wild and colorful city of New Orleans to study at L'AcadÉmie de BeautÉ de Crescent. In that extravagant big river city, she comes to understand fully the power of her "healing hands" to change lives and soothe pain, including her own.
A tale of family and friendship, tragedy and triumph, loss and love, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder features the warmth, humor, soul, and wonder that have made Wells one of today's most cherished writers, and gives us an unforgettable new heroine to treasure.
My Thoughts:

Here is where all of my previous stereotypical statements are proven to be lies, or, err, misstatements, for The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is definitely chick lit and a romance and I really enjoyed it. Much like Fannie Flagg's books, there is something simple, sweet, and down-to earth about Rebecca Wells' book as it follows Calla Lily's life from childhood to adult. I'm going to admit I cried, several times, and smiled, several times, while reading. Now, it's not a perfect novel. I'm not convinced that the Moon Lady as a sort of goddess was needed at all. I'm not as entranced by hair and fashion as Calla and her friends. Sometimes I did find the characters a little too simple. The plot was not filled with suspense and there really were no surprises. But, all of that set aside, I truly found The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder to be a good, uncomplicated, pleasant novel about different kinds of love.

This isn't an extension of the YaYa sisterhood but then I didn't expect it too be. With all the phenomenal success that Wells experienced after the YaYas, I think we, readers, need to give her the space and freedom to find her way and move beyond that one story line. I did love the Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood and enjoyed the second, Little Altars, too. (I actually haven't read the third book yet.) However, I wasn't looking for another YaYa book. I've read that Rebecca Wells was suffering from Lyme disease while writing this novel (she recognizes others for their support in the acknowledgements). She deserves kudos alone for this reason: she continued writing and tackling new characters while battling Lyme disease.
highly recommended

I won this book in a give away. I entered it because I wanted to read it.


I know the moon and the moon knows me. I am the moon and the moon is me. I am life itself. prologue, pg. xi

Whether or not they see me, moonlight bathes my raggedy, tender people. Sometimes they are capable of unimaginable kindness. Other times they are filled with near-paralyzing fear. even when it is dark, though, when all light seems to be eclipsed, there is light on them. Light in them. I see it. pg. xii

My name is Calla Lily Ponder and I was born in 1953 in La Luna, Louisiana, on the banks of the La Luna River That is where my mother cut and curled hair, and my father and mother together taught tango, waltz, and the Cajun two-step. opening

M'Dear taught me about the Bible early on. " 'A woman's hair is her crowning glory,' the Bible says. It's a beautiful quote. Along with the Beatitudes and the Commandments, it's one of the teachings I hope you and your brothers will learn. And don't just learn them, let them into your heart." pg. 4

What I first learned about love, I learned on that dock with M'Dear. The La Luna River flowing by with it's river sounds, the river banks with their lovely sweet citrus scent of jasmine, the scent of M'Dear's hair, the oils of her scalp, the fullness of her thick, long curls against my hands, our breathing together, the closeness of her love for me - all this knit my soul together. pg. 7

Uncle Richard always carried a book with him everywhere he went. He said it was the best drug he knew of to ease pain. With his full head of thick reddish-blond hair, nobody would have guessed that he was so banged up inside. I suppose that's the way it is with everyone, really, that line between what's inside and what's out. pg. 13

I saw that M'Dear's hands were doing much more than just washing dirt out of a person's hair. Much, much more. I saw that washing and setting a person's hair could sometimes change her world. That was something I never lost. pg. 19

After a long minute, Sonny Boy said, "All right, new boy, I'll do it. I'll go first, to show you how, so you don't get yourself killed."
Just as he was getting up, Sonny Boy leaned over and whispered to Will and me, "Keep your eyes peeled out for M'Dear, will you?"
"Sonny Boy," I said, "are you crazy? You're the one who's gonna get killed if M'Dear sees you out there."
"Just give me a whistle if you see any sign of her, okay?"
"No, I'm not giving y'all any whistle," I said. "I'm coming with y'all."
So we all started our adventure. pgs. 34-35

"...I suspect you have the gift of beauty, honey. Anyone that can make Ruth Ellen Ronson look that good has got to have the divine grace. You ought to get yourself some training, sweetheart. Start up a career. A career's an important thing..." pg. 46


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

LOVED your review. I'm waiting for the audio version from the library :)

Lori L said...

Thanks Diane!

Anna said...

I read the Ya Yas book ages ago, and I have Little Altars but haven't read it. This one sounds worth checking out. Thanks for the recommendation.

Diary of an Eccentric

Jeanne said...

Okay, I'd gotten tired of the Ya-Ya hoopla, but you've convinced me that I could like this new novel.

Lori L said...

Anna and Jeanne, this is not like the YaYas at all, with the exception of being a novel with southern women.
It's definitely chick lit and a romance, both genres I generally say I don't enjoy, but I liked Crowning Glory. It really did remind me of Fannie Flagg, in a way.

sarah pekkanen said...

I've been curious about this one, since I loved Ya Yas. Thanks for the review!