Title:  The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder
Author:  Rebecca Wells
Release date:  July 7, 2009
Publisher:  Harper
Pages:  416
Genre:  Adult fiction, Southern fiction
Source:  Publisher

Calla Lily Ponder was born in La Luna, Louisiana to wonderful parents and spent the first fifteen years of her life surrounded by love, laughter, and plenty of friends and family.  But after some tragedy strikes her family, Calla Lily is ready to get out in the world an explore things beyond La Luna.  So she enrolls in a prestigious beauty academy in New Orleans, with the goal of one day opening her own salon, following in the footsteps of her mother.  With Calla Lily’s new life comes ups and downs, new experiences and unexpected tragedies.  But through it all, she retains her Southern charm and good manners, and always keeps her roots, her family and friends in La Luna, close to her heart.

I am a huge fan of Rebecca Wells.  In fact, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is one of my absolute favorite books.  Still, when Calla Lily first came out, it received mixed reviews, so I was a little hesitant to read it at first – I really didn’t want to be disappointed.  I needn’t have worried because this novel was truly a delight to read.  I’m so happy I finally made the time to read it!

This book was just full to bursting of good old Southern charm.  Calla Lily was such a wonderful character – she was kind and compassionate, loved her family to pieces but had an independent streak which caused her to move to New Orleans for several years, and she was just so honest, so upfront about everything.  I loved when she fell in love with her (gay) beauty school teacher – she was convinced that if he saw just how wonderful she was, he would eventually fall for her too.  That whole section of the book just exemplified, for me, what was so sweet about her – she was so innocent, yet so determined to get what she wanted all at the same time.  Of course, eventually she realized that you can’t change a person’s sexuality, and so she became best friends with him instead.  And I loved the deep, intense love she had for her family, her friends, and her hometown of La Luna.  She was constantly trying to find a way to take care of others, she wanted so badly for everyone around her to be happy and she would have done anything to make that the case.

I also loved how Wells was so descriptive with the setting of the novel.  I have never been to Louisiana (although I’d love to go someday), but I so enjoyed reading about the streets of New Orleans, about the night life there, and also about Calla’s sleepier hometown of La Luna, where everyone was like family.  Wells really made me want to travel to Louisiana sooner than later, and I completely understood why Calla Lily loved Louisiana so much!

While The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder does deal with some pretty serious subjects, the overall feel of the book is on the lighter side, which was perfectly okay with me.  This would be a perfect novel to take to the beach or the pool this summer and just enjoy while laying out and having a few cocktails (or sipping on water…. whatever your pleasure).  I truly enjoyed this novel and I’m happy to say that Rebecca Wells is still one of my favorite authors.