February 3 marks the birthday of Rebecca Wells, author of the funny and poignant Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. If you love this timeless read about the enduring power of female friendship and the bond between mothers and daughters, we’ve compiled a list of books for you. These nostalgic — and at times, quirky — books are perfect for fans of the delightful Ya-Yas. Publishers’ descriptions included.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This widely acclaimed bestseller spans two countries and two generations, following a group of Chinese women who meet to play mah jong, invest money and tell the secret stories of their lives. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The multi-million bestselling novel about a young girl’s journey towards healing and the transforming power of love, from the award-winning author of The Invention of Wings.
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina — a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sister, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women — the irrepressibly dare-devilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth — who back in the 30s ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter — even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
In the summer of 1977, Victoria Leonard’s world changes forever when Caitlin Somers chooses her as a friend. Dazzling, reckless Caitlin welcomes Vix into the heart of her sprawling, eccentric family, opening doors to a world of unimaginable privilege, sweeping her away to vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, an enchanting place where the two friends become “summer sisters.”
Now, years later, Vix is working in New York City. Caitlin is getting married on the Vineyard. And the early magic of their long, complicated friendship has faded. But Caitlin begs Vix to come to her wedding, to be her maid of honor. And Vix knows that she will go — because she wants to understand what happened during that last shattering summer. And, after all these years, she needs to know why her best friend — her summer sister — still has the power to break her heart.
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
From the New York Times bestselling author of On Mystic Lake comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship…
In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all — beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.
So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.
From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the 80s, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down 90s, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success… and loneliness.
Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her… how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend…
For 30 years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship — jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart… and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.
Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you — and knows what has the power to hurt you… and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget… one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.
Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart
Loudmouthed, redheaded Cee Cee Bloom has her sights set on Hollywood. Bertie White, quiet and conservative, dreams of getting married and having children. In 1951, their childhood worlds collide in Atlantic City. Keeping in touch as pen pals, they reunite over the years… always near the ocean.
Powerful and moving, this novel follows Cee Cee and Bertie’s extraordinary friendship over the course of 30 years as they transform from adolescents into adults. A bestselling novel that became a hugely successful film, Beaches is funny, heartbreaking, and a tale that should be a part of every woman’s library.
The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney
Meet the saving graces, four of the best friends a woman can ever have.
For 10 years, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have shared a deep affection that has helped them deal with the ebb and flow of expectations and disappointments common to us all. Calling themselves the Saving Graces, the quartet is united by understanding, honesty, and acceptance — a connection that has grown stronger as the years go by…
Though these sisters of the heart and soul have seen it all, talked through it all, Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel will not be prepared for a crisis of astounding proportions that will put their love and courage to the ultimate test.
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
From the critically acclaimed author of A Day Late and a Dollar Short and The Interruption of Everything, a wise, earthy story of a friendship between four African American women who lean on each other while “waiting to exhale:” waiting for that man who will take their breath away.
Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction…
Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-30s, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she’s made over the past decade of her life. Julia — whose caustic wit covers up her wounds — has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can’t hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life. And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world… though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is just what each of them needs.
Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he’s hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he’s ever cared about.
Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity. Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs?
Mary Kay Andrews’ novel is the story of five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this novel about a resilient and courageous woman has become a Broadway show and a cultural phenomenon.
Celie has grown up poor in rural Georgia, despised by the society around her and abused by her own family. She strives to protect her sister, Nettie, from a similar fate, and while Nettie escapes to a new life as a missionary in Africa, Celie is left behind without her best friend and confidante, married off to an older suitor, and sentenced to a life alone with a harsh and brutal husband.
In an attempt to transcend a life that often seems too much to bear, Celie begins writing letters directly to God. The letters, spanning 20 years, record a journey of self-discovery and empowerment guided by the light of a few strong women. She meets Shug Avery, her husband’s mistress and a jazz singer with a zest for life, and her stepson’s wife, Sophia, who challenges her to fight for independence. And though the many letters from Celie’s sister are hidden by her husband, Nettie’s unwavering support will prove to be the most breathtaking of all.
Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand
The ties between women can run as deep as the ocean — but so can the secrets.
For 20 years, Kayla, Antoinette, and Val have performed their own special summer ritual. Once a year, the old friends put aside their daily, separate lives to drink champagne, swap stories and swim naked under the Nantucket stars. But on one of those bonding nights, one of their trio swims out from the shore and doesn’t return. After the surviving friends emerge from their grief, they realize that the repercussions of their loss go far beyond their little circle, and they begin to uncover layers of secrets — and their connections to each other — that were never revealed on the beach. What has made their friendship strong now has the power to destroy — their marriages, families, even themselves, in Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket Nights.
The House on Olive Street by Robyn Carr
Elly, Sable, Barbara Ann, and Beth. They have been drawn together by the sudden death of their friend Gabby — and the favor she has asked of them. For these four women, whose own lives have become unhappy works of fiction, a summer sorting through Gabby’s personal papers offers the perfect challenge — and the perfect escape.
ELLY — The intellectual spinster who’s hidden herself within the walls of academia, afraid to admit that she’s tired of being alone.
SABLE — Her bestselling novels have made her a star, but the woman who has everything in fact has nothing except a past she’s desperate to hide.
BARBARA ANN — The talent behind 26 romance novels, who wakes up one day to find she’s lost control of her career, her sanity, and her family.
BETH — Her popular mysteries have become the only way she can fight back against the secret tyranny of her abusive husband.
In the house on Olive Street, away from their menagerie of troubles, these women will discover something marvelous: themselves, each other and pieces of a dream that only they can make happen. For in telling the hidden story of a remarkable woman, their own lives are about to change…
The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale
“Why won’t you just tell me what’s in that cake?” I’d been trying to get Laine’s recipe for years. We all had.
When all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.
In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food — especially dessert — is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family — even if the threat is something you cannot see.
In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws… from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way.
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
From her sensational sleeper hit Patty Jane’s House of Curl to her heartwarming novel Welcome to the Great Mysterious, Lorna Landvik has won the hearts of readers everywhere by skillfully balancing hilarity with pathos, and bittersweet insights with heartwarming truths. Now she returns to her beloved, eccentric stomping ground of small-town Minnesota where the most eclectic, and engaging group of women you’ll ever meet share love, loss, and laughter.
Sometimes life is like a bad waiter — it serves you exactly what you don’t want. The women of Freesia Court have come together at life’s table, fully convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together — the foundation of a book group they call AWEB — Angry Wives Eating Bon Bons — an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline.
The five women each have a story of their own to tell. There’s Faith, the newcomer, a lonely housewife and mother of twins, a woman who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that good posture and an attitude can let you get away with anything; Merit, the shy, quiet doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a thoughtful, wise woman with a wonderful laugh as “deep as Santa Claus’s with a cold” who knows the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, activist, adventurer, social changer, a tiny, spitfire of a woman who looks trouble straight in the eye and challenges it to arm wrestle.
Holding on through 40 eventful years — through the swinging ’60s, the turbulent ’70s, the anything-goes ’80s, the nothing’s-impossible ’90s — the women will take the plunge into the chaos that inevitably comes to those with the temerity to be alive and kicking. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, children and grandchildren, bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Once again Lorna Landvik leaves you laughing and crying, as she reveals perhaps the greatest truth: that there is nothing like the saving grace of best friends.
Which of these books have you read? Tell us in the comments!
Want access to free & bargain ebooks? Sign up for BookBub here.