Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Pages: 306
Published: January 2010
Genre: Historical/Realistic Fiction
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

What Goodreads says, "Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.  The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.  While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.  But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction."

For me, there is nothing like a heartwarming Southern story to thaw me out on cold Pennsylvania nights and that is exactly what this story did for me.  Beth Hoffman's descriptions of Savannah took me there every night. I, along with CeeCee, went walking through Forsyth Park, smelled the wisteria in Miz Goodpepper's garden, sipped cold beverages on Tootie's Gaston Street porch, watched the eccentric neighbors put on their nightly display along with the fireflies under the Georgia star-filled sky.  Savannah is such a magical town and Hoffman portrays it perfectly.

The Goodreads summary above does a great job of covering the basic synopsis, but there is so much more to this story.  I can't say enough about the characters. They are well-developed, dynamic and memorable. I have two favorite characters.  First-- the housekeeper and long time friend of Aunt Tootie,  Oletta Jones.  She is a paragon of courage and I found myself captivated by her.  I also adored CeeCee.  As stated in the Goodreads summary, her life in Ohio was anything but a happy childhood.  Her mother was mentally ill and living in the past, literally, as a Southern beauty queen. CeeCee deals with a multitude of hardships when living in Ohio and what she had to deal with on a daily basis simply broke my heart.   I must mention my other favorite character,  Mrs. Odell.  Mrs. Odell, who is CeeCee's Ohio next door neighbor, reminded me so much of my own grandmother; I couldn't believe the similarities.  She was CeeCee's only friend, refuge, and source of solace.  CeeCee and Mrs. Odell's strong connection was one of my favorite aspects of the book.

While reading this novel, I found myself reaching across the nightstand for a post-it to mark certain pages. Honestly, the last time I did that was when I read one of my favorite novels, Tuesdays with Morrie. Beth Hoffman's characters shared such wonderful lessons and advice that I felt was worth noting and reviewing at a later day--so much so that I put a mini post-it by each extraordinary quote.  By the time I was done the novel, I found an abundance of bright orange post-its sticking out of random pages.  For example, here are two of my favorite lines:
"Cecelia Rose, she said, reaching for my hand, "far too many people die with a heart that's gone flat with indifference, and it surely must be a terrible way to go. Life will offer us amazing opportunities, but we've got to be wide-awake to recognize them."  

"Oletta gazed at the ocean and inhaled.  "It just don't get any better'n this."
"I know this is the same sky that hangs over Ohio, but the sun seems bigger here.  Everything seems bigger." 
She pursed her lips and thought about that for a moment.  "Maybe your eyes is just more open."
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is one of those touching, rare books that comes along and makes you think about life.  After reading it, I had an overwhelming sense that all is right,  good will prevail, and there will be nothing but blue skies from now on.  So, cozy up this winter and let Beth Hoffman transport you to CeeCee's world, because you'll be laughing out loud, shedding a few tears, and meeting unforgettable characters whose stories and advice will resonate through the pages and find their way to your heart.

Buy It Here:

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for such a lovely review of CeeCee. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. You really made my day!

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  2. As I began to read your review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, I thought to myself this book sounds quite interesting. Half way through your review, I am thinking that I might have to read this book very soon. Upon completion of your review, I ordered the book and CAN NOT WAIT TO READ IT!!!! Thanks for taking the time to keep us informed!

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  3. Beth- It was my pleasure. I really enjoyed it! :)

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  4. I really loved CeeCee, too; the sense of place was so strong, and that's what really made the book for me! Had it been set anywhere than the South, I don't think the effect would have been the same. Oletta was one of my absolute favorite characters!

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