Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder


I just realized that I did not have a single post in November. I would say I’m surprised, but I’m not. The past month has been one of transition. I was recently laid off from my job of the past five years. It is a strange feeling, being asked to not come into work anymore because they decided they didn’t want to pay you anymore, not because of anything you may or may have not done. So, I have decided to take a break and I have been traveling to visit my family and enjoying filling my days with reading, cooking, cleaning my house, and trying to remember that I don’t actually have a real to do list right now. Other than relax. I should write that on a list.

On my recent trip home, I grabbed a book from my stack of “for when you get around to them” books. I think most people have one of those stacks. “The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder” is by Rebecca Wells. I fell in love with Rebecca Wells a few years ago when she wrote “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”. I loved that book and the subsequent “Little Alters Everywhere” and “Ya-Yas in Bloom”. I know this must be shocking at this point in my blogging, but I love a well written Southern novel. Exactly. Shocking.

I enjoyed this book, though it was not the book I should have taken on a plane when I was going to visit family. Let’s just say that the large man I was sitting next to was probably wondering why the blonde girl kept quietly crying and sniffling for the first hour of the flight. This was a book about love, grief, and coming to terms with the two of those things in life.

Calla Lilly Ponder grew up in La Luna, a small town on the La Luna river in Mississippi. Here the lady in the moon watches over Calla and the rest of the people in the little town named for her. Calla has a happy childhood as the much loved child of her parents who were loved by the community. Her mother, Lenora, is the town hairdresser and runs her business off the side porch, which she names the Crowning Glory, because as the Bible says, “a woman’s hair is her crowning glory”. When Calla is still young, she loses Lenora to breast cancer, but not before her mother is able to show her the magic healing that can occur when doing someone’s hair. It isn’t just about making someone look good, but it can be a healing, transformative experience. Calla has the healing hands and decides to pursue hair.

She goes to New Orleans to train at beauty school. This portion of the book takes place in the 70s and it is an interesting look at the city, the culture of the 70s, hair, clothes, and sexuality. Here she makes new friends and struggles with the demons of old ones.

Through Calla’s life she struggles with heartbreak, the loss of more loved ones, and the power of forgiveness, not just for individuals, but forgiveness for the lady in the moon, who at times, Calla feels betrayed by. But in the end, we are led to see that everything might happen for a reason. It might feel like a trite wrap up for a book with so much loss and sorrow, but at the time, I found it satisfying. Love and loss go hand in hand, but it is the moments of love that make life worthwhile.

I enjoyed this book. But, it is a tearjerker, so don’t read it on a plane, especially if you are on the way to see your mama.

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