Summary: In the small river town of La Luna, Louisiana, Calla Lily Ponder bursts into being, a force of nature as luminous as the flower she is named for. Under the loving light of the Moon Lady, the feminine force that will guide and protect her throughout her life, Calla enjoys a blissful childhood—until it is tragically cut short. From her mother, Calla learns compassion and healing through the humble womanly art of "fixing hair." On the banks of the La Luna River, she discovers a sweet, succulent first love that is as enticing as the music, food, and dancing of her Louisiana home. When heartbreak hits, Calla leaves the familiarity of her hometown and heads downriver to the untamed city of New Orleans, where her destiny further unfolds.
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the story of a pink-collar heroine whose willingness to remain vulnerable in the face of adversity opens our own hearts to the possibility of love growing from sorrow.-- Harper
Like many women, I devoured DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD by Rebecca Wells a few years back. I absolutely adored the book and even watched the movie (which is saying a lot for me because I rarely watch movies!) And, then I read the other books in the series, LITTLE ALTARS EVERYWHERE and YA-YAS IN BLOOM, and didn't quite experience the same level of enjoyment. I realize that it's hard to live up to a huge hit like DIVINE SECRETS, but I was so hoping...
So now Ms. Wells has written a stand-alone novel called THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER. It probably goes without saying that I was extremely curious to read this book and see how it fared against her other ones. I was actually pleasantly surprised about this heartwarming coming-of-age story about a girl in Louisiana. I admit that it didn't quite live up to DIVINE SECRETS, but I have to say that overall I really enjoyed it.
There were many things I enjoyed about THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER, but one thing specifically stood out to me. I liked that, at its heart, this book was about the strength and resilience of women. While the story is really Calla's (and I did find her very likable), the reader also gets to experience so many other wonderful female characters from Moon Lady, to Calla's mother M'Dear, to the black woman Olivia who took care of the Ponder family, to the skating rink owner Nelle who was way ahead of her time, to Calla's best friends Renee and Sukey. Each one of these characters were interesting in their own right and demonstrated how valuable female relationships are in our lives. And, as a whole, they all contributed to the raising of Calla.
I also really enjoyed that this book covered a huge emotional range for me. It was, at times, cute and playful. However, it also delved into some very serious issues such as racial discrimination, alcoholism, and loss. While there were quite a few depressing scenes, I still felt as if this book was heart-warming and even upbeat. I walked away from this book feeling good... and really appreciating how strong woman can be!
My book club actually read THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER for our August meeting. I thought it was a good pick because there was a wide range of opinions on the book. There is a reading guide available, but we found that we were all over the place and didn't really stick to it much at all! Some of the topics you might want to discuss include mother/daughter relationships, the role of women, racial discrimination, friendship, first love, marriage, grief, and loss. It's definitely a fun book to talk about and there is potential for a very fun New Orleans themed meeting.
There is a very interesting BlogTalk Radio show with Ms. Wells that Book Club Girl hosted a few months ago. I encourage you to listen and get an insider's look into Ms. Wells and her novels.
If you are a fan of Rebecca Wells or Southern fiction about women, then I recommend THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER! I thought it was a very good book and just ideal for the summer!
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.