The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder (Paperback)
Harper Perennial, 9780060930622, 416pp.
Publication Date: April 13, 2010
September 2009 Indie Next List
— Rita Moran, Apple Valley Books, Winthrop, ME
View the List
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.
About the Author
Writer, actor, and playwright Rebecca Wells is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Ya-Yas in Bloom, Little Altars Everywhere, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which was made into a feature film. A native of Louisiana, she now lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
Praise For The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel…
— Real Simple
“Calla Lily is a sweetie. . . . This is a novel full of miracles, with characters more colorful than a Crayola 64-crayon box. It’s just the right dose of Southern charm.”
— Seattle Times
“Many readers will recognize that all the characters . . . are creations of a literary goddess in her own right. . . . Down-to-earth and comforting . . . [A] good-hearted, wishful-thinking book.”
— Washington Post
“Wells writes genuinely about her native Louisiana. . . . It’s hard not to fall in love with the people in this magical place, where love is as plentiful as the dancing, gumbo and ice-cold Cokes. . . . A perfect beach read about mothers and friends and sisters.”
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Charming and luminous . . . A perfect summer indulgence that’ll have you peeking out your window on a muggy night in search of the Moon Lady, who’ll wrap her nurturing arms around you from afar.”
— Austin American-Statesman
“Wells brings back the lush beauty of her birthplace. . . . Wide-eyed, big-hearted Calla has more faith than all the ya-yas put together. . . . As ever, the author’s strength lies in her ability to articulate the profound relationship between women.”
— Miami Herald
“Rebecca Wells spins a sweet Southern yarn about an aspiring beautician who overcomes tragedy to find love.”
“Fans of Rebecca Wells’ tales of the ‘Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ will find themselves just as enchanted with this story full of Southern charm and lessons in life. . . . With wisdom and insight, Wells guides Calla on her path of self-discovery.”
— Daytona Beach News-Journal
“[A] heaping helping of sugar . . . [for] when you’re feeling nostalgic for a sugarcoated past.”
— USA Today
“Calla Lily Ponder is every bit as affable as her name suggests. . . . Expect high demand from loyal Ya-Yas fans, who have eagerly awaited a new work from Wells.”
“Told in Wells’ signature style . . . Rich in anecdote and atmosphere . . . This is easily a three-hanky read. . . . the lessons of hope and promises of healing will be a balm to many.”
— Bellingham Herald
“Fiction junkies packing for vacation can without hesitation place The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder into the juicy reading pile. There’s period drama, there’s romance, and there’s a lot of fabulous hair all wrapped in a vibrantly Southern package.”
— North Kitsap Herald
“Another exuberant tale of Louisiana women . . . who can resist those moonlit nights, those swimming holes, that delicious cochon de lait, the dreamy little Louisiana towns, the women who are larger than life? Wells weaves that magic spell again.”
— New Orleans Times-Picayune
“All readers will embrace the themes of second chances.”
— Library Journal
“Rebecca Wells has done it again. . . . A new book full of Southern charm and unique characters . . . impossible to put down. . . . Wells delivers characters that are distinct and realistic.”
— Houston Chronicle
“Wells’s larger-than-life characters are custom made for summer reading.”
— The Independent Weekly
“The latest novel by Rebecca Wells, the belle of Southern fiction. . . . is a satisfying coming-of-age tale in a place where the moon glows and the lemonade flows.”
— Columbus Dispatch
“Wells knows how to paint a picture of small-town life and the wide world beyond that pulls at the heartstrings. Ya-Ya fans are likely to go gaga over The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder.”
— Deseret News
“Pure Southern comfort, and [Wells] continues the tradition.”
— New York Daily News
“Rebecca Wells is a master of . . . women’s fiction. . . . The novel teaches us that even the worst decisions can be rescued and that approaching the world with love will heal any brokenness in our hearts.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“Wells delights in small-town life. . . . She makes the enchantment of daily life seem as plain as daylight.”
— Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[Wells’] descriptions are so lush and lyrical it feels like you could step through the pages into the hot, humid landscape so shaped by the Mississippi River.”
— Denver Post
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
Wells lives in Seattle now, but Louisiana is clearly still vivid in her life and work. Talk about Wells’ fictional Louisiana, and how the setting of La Luna expands that growing landscape.
The natural world plays a major role in this story: the La Luna River and the Moon Lady are as fully realized and important as any of the human characters. Talk about how Wells is able to weave together the mystical and the ordinary. Why do you think this works?
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is a standalone novel, in which Rebecca Wells introduces a brand new character, Calla Lily Ponder. Wells has referred to this new book as a “spiritual cousin” to her Ya-Ya books. How do you think it relates to Wells’ previous works?
Wells has long been praised for her ability to write honestly and movingly about family, friendship, and love–all important themes in this new book. How did she approach them differently (or similarly) to tell Calla’s story—starting with the fact that there is one very central character here?
Wells’ previous books have dealt extensively with the idea of sisterhood. This new novel depicts female friendships across racial, generational, and socio-economic lines. Talk about Calla’s “sisters,” and how each one provides different kinds of support for her emotional journey.
Wells has observed that in mythology, legend, and even in present time, hair symbolizes the soul. Hair plays a large role in Calla’s life. What does “crowning glory” mean in this story? Why is it such a touchstone for Calla throughout her life, especially when paired with her memories of her childhood? What does the book’s title signify to you?
From her mother, Calla inherits “healing hands,” the power to not only beautify a woman’s exterior but also to connect with and mend the emotional turmoil underneath. Why isn’t it until her adult life in New Orleans that Calla is fully able to appreciate her gift?
Think about some of the unbreakable bonds Calla has in her life: with M’Dear, with Sukie. Talk about the Moon Lady’s influence as a guiding force throughout Calla’s life. Is it just as strong or even stronger than Calla’s human relationships?
Over the course of the book, Calla experiences first love and then, later, a more mature love. How do the men in her life reflect both her essential nature and her growth? Talk about Wells’ ability to depict male characters in this story.
Calla goes through heartbreak and loss throughout this story, but she manages to find inspiration through tragedy. How is she able to do this? Is this a strength she was born with?
What do you imagine might happen between Calla Lily and Tuck the day/week/month after they drink that cup of coffee together?