Bonding Love - Comparing A Recipe For Bees, by Gail Anderson-Dargatz and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells.

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The conflicts that arise in A Recipe For Bees, by Gail Anderson-Dargatz and in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells develop a bonding force between the relationships of mother and daughter. Throughout A Recipe For Bees conflict is created through the daughter’s selfish actions towards her mother. Similarly, yet in a reversal of roles it is the selfishness of the mother in Ya-Ya Sisterhood that creates conflict and tension. In the end both situations bring about an awareness for the love they have for each other and that the loving bond shared is stronger then the time lost in conflict. Both novels exemplify this in several ways. One way is in the bonds both mother and daughter share with each other and the years they spent together in happiness. Another is in the relationships they have with members of the family and close friend which holds a very large role in the road to a recovered relationship as they help them set aside their differences and lean towards focusing on the good.

Finally, the one outward action that truly enables both mothers and daughters to restore their relationships is the act of selflessness.

In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Siddalee Walker, the daughter of Viviane Walker makes the upsetting mistake of allowing herself to be interviewed by New York Times reporter Roberta Lydell. Sidda herself is a famous Play-Write and stirred the interest of the public with one of her recent plays called “Women On The Cusp” The reporter gets Sidda talking about her child hood and upbringing, and Sidda flippantly makes comments about her mother getting drunk and whipping her with a belt. The reporter soon turns a seemingly innocent interview into a shock factor story in order to promote publicity for herself. As a result, her actions in publishing this interview, turned disastrous. It became the top story and the front cover of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. It referred to Vivi as a “Tap-dancing Child Abuser” (Wells 1). Hence, the foremost conflict of the novel arises leading Vivi to say things to Sidda that were only intended to cause her pain.

“There is nothing you can say or do to make me forgive you,” Vivi said. “You are dead to me. You have killed me. Now I am killing you.” -- “I have cut you out of my will. Do not be surprised if I sue you for libel. There are no photos left of you on any of my walls” (Wells 2).

This conflict between mother and daughter shows weakness when it comes to Vivi’s sensitivity. As Sidda is Vivi’s eldest daughter she clearly expects more of her. Namely, to be more loving and sensitive towards her own mother and to do anything possible to keep her happy. Sidda is expected to accept those childhood moments that were less than perfect and focus only on the good. Their relationship is wounded as a result of hurt pride and emotions, and is then in need of major repair. Both Vivi and Sidda lose sight of happy times spent together. For Sidda she was unaware of how insensitive she was towards her mother when she reviled certain information to the reporter. For Vivi, her stubbornness and overall selfishness caused her to focus on only the bad that was the result of the interview instead of recalling the good times and many summers spent with Sidda at Spring Creek (Wells 34). Vivi refused to send her scrapbook entitled ‘Divine Secrets’ which held many of those memories to Sidda, proclaiming “It is not my fault if she’s chickening out of her wedding,” Vivi said. “I am not sending her my scrapbook” (Wells 16). However Caro, Sidda’s godmother (and member of the Ya-Ya’s) eventually persuaded Vivi to send it, regardless and it proved to be instrumental in resolving the mother-daughter conflict. The summers together held no significance to Sidda until she remembered them through the eyes of the scrapbook. As she flipped through the book she put herself into her mother’s shoes, enabling her to emphasise with young Vivi and eventually take the necessary steps in apologizing to her mother for what had been said.

The main conflict which arises in A Recipe For Bees comes when Joy sends her mother Augusta home to be with her father Karl, while her husband Gabe is in for brain surgery. Joy has always been bothered by her mom’s ‘high maintenance’ personality. Growing up with her obsession of bees for whatever reason meant endless stories of bees and how they seemed to relate to every situation in life… or not. Often when her mom did not want to deal with the reality of situations at hand, she would do silly things or go off into endless stories. Joy and Augusta had visited a book store together the day before, and after Augusta was tempted to shop lift a book, and Joy scolded her like a little child, they had a bit of an argument. Joy did not want Augusta around when her husband went in for surgery as if she was another burden to bear. In order for Joy to be rid of Augusta for the day while he was in surgery she exclaimed to her mom “I don’t want to have to deal with you tomorrow, not while the operation is going on” (Anderson 19). Augusta’s feelings were hurt by this comment and obediently she left for home the next morning, all the while worried about Joy being alone and Gabe being under the knife. The whole time Augusta never stopped thinking about her daughter, and deeply wanted to resolve the tension from their argument. Instead she was forced to wait at home, with Karl and her best friend Rose, for Joy to call. While waiting for the call from Joy, Augusta recalled the fun times she spent with Joy during her childhood, jumping up and down in huge wool sacks to pack the wool for shipping, and having picnic lunches together watching Karl out in the field with the sheep (Anderson 217). Augusta’s ability to overlook the bad situations made it easier for her to welcome Joy home with open arms when she needed her mother most.

Overall the book shows a sense of family that can be hard and untimely, but poses a bond that can never be broken…only damaged. Once peace is restored, the ones who love you most realize what is important and what is not, forgetting the upsets of the past.

When people get hurt by the ones they love, they tend to turn to other family members or to a close friend. In the case of Vivi Walker, she turned to her closest friends: the Ya-Ya’s. Despite the previous arguments Sidda had encountered with Vivi, she continued to try to call and to write in order to get her mother to communicate with her. Unfortunately her letters remained unanswered and the phone calls unwelcome. Sidda was dead to Vivi. When Sidda realized that there was nothing she could do to get through to her mother, she decided that the best thing would be to postpone her wedding to her fiancé Connor McGill. Living with the reality of abandonment by her mother, she secretly feared also the eventual abandonment of her fiancé. Until she had that sorted, this seemed to be the best decision.

“I have decided to postpone my wedding to Connor. I wanted to tell you before you hear it from someone else. I know how word spreads in Thornton.

My problem is, I just don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to love.

Anyway, that’s the news”. (Wells 11)When Vivi learned of this she appeared in such a panic that she immediately called the Ya-Ya’s to consult with them. In an instant, Vivi remembered the one photo that did not destroy of Sidda. It was the photo that Sidda had sent her when Connor had proposed. Vivi’s motherly instinct kicked in and she explained to the other Ya-Ya’s that she can not allow Sidda to call off the wedding. When she showed the Ya-Ya’s the picture, she made them study Sidda for them to recognize what it was about her in that picture that was so special and unique. “It’s the smile.” “Exactement! Siddalee Walker has not smiled like that in a photograph since she was ten years old” (Wells 14). Despite this fact, and with the degree of happiness Vivi truly wants for Sidda, she still makes little effort to forgive her daughter for her mistakes. Even after the Ya-Ya’s persuaded her to send the ‘Divine Secrets’, She still continued to have no desire to see her ‘back stabbing’ daughter face to face. However just because she didn’t want to see her daughter, the rest of the Ya-Ya’s did. They decided to go visit her, and attempt to talk some sense to her. Upon their arrival Sidda was stunned to see the three Ya-Ya’s pull into the drive at the cottage. When she asked why they were there Necie explained that they were hear “on a matter of Ya-Ya diplomacy” (Wells 283). After they had visited for a while, Connor showed up. By the end of the Ya-Ya’s visit and her time with Connor, Sidda had a better idea of how her mother felt thus leading her to want to take action and resolve things in their relationship.

For Augusta Olsen despite the torment of being told to leave by her own daughter, she managed to cope with the help of Rose and her husband Karl. The way she cared for her son-in-law Gabe and the thought that he was in great danger with the operation was enough to keep her on her feet with little time to sit. Through conversations with Rose she became more settled. Augusta exclaimed that she had thought she had seen Gabe earlier that day walking about one of the train stops she was at. When Rose replied with astonishment and asked her if she thought it was a vision or not, Augusta explained, “I thought it was him, but then it wasn’t. I was so sure I’d seen him” (Anderson 193). “That’s encouraging, don’t you think? asked Rose. Maybe some part of you is saying he’ll be up and walking around in no time” (Anderson 193). By Rose saying this to Augusta she helped to calm her and give her predictions of the surgery a more positive spin. The significance, however, in Augusta having this ‘premonition’ or ‘vision’ of seeing Gabe out and walking was not the first. She had also seen him in a vision before, as well as others. The day Joy was born, she has also had a ‘dream’ that her father had drowned. Her father himself responded with a mix of amazement and disbelief, “What? Drowned? Crazy dream, that” (Anderson 175). Yet when she told him it wasn’t exactly a dream and that she had actually heard voices, he didn’t seem to believe her and then replied with a more joking sarcastic tone, “You hearing voices, they better keep you in the hospital for a week longer eh?” (Anderson 176). Augusta was then able to calmly go about her day waiting patiently for Joy to call.

In both novels the best friends of the mothers enable the conflicting family members to compose themselves, and guide them forward towards mending the relationship.

In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood it was strictly up to Siddalee to mend the conflict between her and her mother. Simply because Vivi’s personality would not allow herself to go and forgive Sidda willingly. So when Connor mentions something about Vivi’s birthday Sidda reluctantly took the opportunity and selflessly attempted reconciliation. Connor convinced her to do so in the form of a suggestion. “Why don’t you return her scrapbook to her in person?” (Wells 329). Little does Connor know, Sidda has already begun to realize that maybe they can work things out between the two of them and get married after all.

“Sidda held the glass of champagne up so she could see the bubbles in the moonlight. My mother is not the Holy Lady, they thought. My mother’s love is not perfect. My mother’s love is good enough. My lover is good enough. Maybe I am good enough too.” (Wells 327).

For Connor, the last bit of persuasion came when he told Sidda that Teensy said she had her father’s eyelashes. This in itself convinced Sidda that, if not for her mother’s sake, she would go back to Pecan Grove to at least see her father (Wells 329). When Sidda and Connor finally arrive back at her childhood home with Vivi, their greeting was a little unorthodox on Vivi’s part. “You crazy fool! What in the world are you doing all they way down here? … Holy Mother of Pearl! Would yall believe it?! It’s Siddalee! Its my oldest child! … I can’t believe it! You nut! I didn’t think you’d really come!” (Wells 336). When Vivi asks Sidda what the real reason was that she came down to her home Sidda responds by saying that Lawanda made her do it (Wells 345). LAWANDA, THE MAGNIFICENT, was a huge female elephant that came to Thornton in 1961, the summer Sidda finished second grade (Wells 316). It was Sidda’s memory of that day spend with her mother, mixed with Connor’s convincing, that persuaded Sidda to go and try and make amends with her mother. When Sidda told her mother that she had brought back the ‘Divine Secrets’ safely, Vivi replied that ‘it wasn’t the scrapbook I wanted returned safely, it was you” (Wells 346).

In A Recipe for Bees the conflict started with Joy, but in the end it was her recognition of her original selfishness that brought both her and her mother back together. During the time that Joy told her mother that she didn’t want her with her, she needed her most.

“I waited and waited at the hospital, finally I went home. But I couldn’t stand it, then I had to get out and drive, you know? So I left your number at the hospital and go in the car. I didn’t think I’d com all the way here, but once in the car I couldn’t stop driving” (Anderson 300-301).

After Joy explained her reason for being there, they received word that Gabe was out of surgery and doing well in recovery. Joy once again was ready to leave her parents. This time through she makes sure her mother is clear that she does need her. “Of course I need you. Where’d you get the idea I didn’t?” (Anderson 303). Even though Augusta did not feel that Joy was telling her the whole truth, the reassurance still helped, and their love for each other surpassed their conflicts.

In the end, both mother daughter duos managed to repair their wounded hearts from conflict. Through the help of others they realised that the love they had for each other could not be broken apart by disagreement or hard trials, but that it was during those times they needed each other most. They also learned to take what life threw them, the bad and the good, and turn them into opportunities to learn from. All in all the books showed that the greatest bond of all, though temporarily damaged, can never be broken.

Work CitedAnderson-Dargatz, Gail. A Recipe for Bees. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1999.

Wells, Rebecca. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. New York, New York:Harper Perennial, 1997.