Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Here is a summary of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt from the Penguin website:

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, "packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart." It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.

My Review:
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was such a special novel that gripped my heart on so many different levels.  I have read nothing but rave reviews of this novel so you may not be surprised to learn that this is another review with nothing but compliments.  I honestly believe that this story will show you the importance of having strong, loving women in your life to count on at all times.  I have always enjoyed Southern fiction and the female relationships that were created in this novel was just the icing on the cake!

CeeCee is a young girl who really hasn't had the opportunity to enjoy her childhood the way most children have.  Her father is a traveling salesman who is hardly ever home and as CeeCee's mother's mental state worsens his trips home become less and less.  Before you know it CeeCee is the one taking care of her mother rather than the other way around.  Her mother frequently visited the local Goodwill store in search of a new prom dress, since that is what she wore on a daily basis.  I can only imagine the horror that CeeCee felt when coming home from school only to find her mother doing yardwork in her latest prom dress purchase.

Early in the novel CeeCee's mother is killed in an unfortunate accident and her father decides that he probably doesn't have what it takes to raise her.  When her mother's Aunt Tootie arrives after the funeral offering to take CeeCee back to Savannah, Georgia and raise her, he doesn't hesitate at the opportunity.  Although CeeCee feels that her father is abandoning her once again, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to her under the circumstances.

Tootie is a caring, strong woman who lives alone in a big old house in Georgia.  When they arrive at her home she finds herself surrounded by the beauty of various flower gardens and more strong women that would do just about anything for their neighbors.  Tootie takes on the role not only of caregiver but also a friend and I found it interesting how each woman that entered CeeCee's life played a special role and they seemed to have their own little secrets between them.

Oletta has been Tootie's servant and cook for as long as they both can remember and she was definitely one of my favorite characters.  She developed a special kinship with CeeCee almost immediately and was probably the first person that CeeCee opened up to and let out her emotions in full swing.  Miz Goodpepper was Tootie's kooky neighbor that you could never predict.  I couldn't help but laugh out loud when she showed up at Tooties door in a beautiful gown but happened to be using duct tape for a bra...now that is a use for duct tape that I don't think I will ever try!

Mrs. Odell was CeeCee's loveable elderly neighbor when she still lived with her mother.  During that period of her life Mrs. Odell was probably her only link to sanity and when she first had to leave her childhood home to move to Savannah it was Mrs. Odell that was going to be missed the most.  But when Mrs. Odell explained to CeeCee that we all had our own Life Books with different plans in them for different reasons it helped her to cope with her move.  Later on in the novel CeeCee reflects about her Life Book in the following phrase from page 276 of the uncorrected proof:
I thought about how we all had Life Books--Mrs. Odell, Aunt Tootie, Oletta, and me, and how someone, somewhere, had seen fit to write our names on one another's pages. 

Throughout this novel CeeCee is dealing with what has happened to her mother, wondering if the same illness could possibly strike her at any point in her life.  As she starts to be more comfortable with herself you can see that the memories of her mother's insanity are starting to be replaced by good heartfelt memories.  CeeCee remembered when her mother was telling her about how oysters are like women in the following excerpt from page 255 of the uncorrected proof:
   "Oysters are a lot like women.  It's how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty."  She fell silent for a moment and gazed out the window.  "They say there's no such thing as a perfect pearl-that nothing from nature can ever be truly perfect."
   Abruptly she turned to me, and the look in her eyes was fierce.  "But they're wrong," she said, pulling me close.  "You, Cecilia Rose, are a perfect pearl.  My Perfect little pearl."

This book brought tears to my eyes several times and just verified to me the importance of having solid relationships with good women.  I think I could really go on and on about this book all day and I know I will be passing it around to the ladies in my book group.  If you enjoy Southern fiction with themes of acceptance and forgiveness with some strong and quirky women I am sure you will enjoy this book.  So my final question is, Do you have plenty of pearls written in your Life Book?  I know I do!

My Rating: 5/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me from Library Thing as part of the Early Reviewer's program in exchange for an honest review.


Lisa said...

I LOVE stories about relationships women have with eachother! I have seen this for awhile now floating around the blogosphere. Your review has really prompted me to read it! Great job, Jo-Jo.

Kaye said...

Sounds so wonderful. I have it on the shelf and really want to get to it.

Not one so so review has been published- all have been glowing. I'm glad to see you really liked the book and it touched you so deeply. Beautiful review!

Serena said...

This one has been making the rounds and it is getting fantastic reviews. I would love to read this one at some point. Thanks for the great review.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Another terrific review on the awesome book; i just loved it!

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

Another glowing review! I adored this book and will definitely reread it again. I'm glad you enjoyed it too. It's a book you can feel good about after reading it! Great review!

Missy B. said...

Awesome review! This book is on it's way to me from PBS...can't wait to get it!

Anonymous said...

I gave this a 5 too :) Great review.

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book, too! Aunt Tootie and her friends were such strong and inspiring female characters. Great review!

Esme said...

This book is on my wish list-everyone has wonderful things to say about it.

Booksnyc said...

great review! Every time I read a review for this one, I just want to read it more!

Veens said...

Wow!! That was a great review and that quote about Oysters is great too!

It sounds like a perfect read which i would love!! I am adding this to my wish list!

Beth Hoffman said...

I just got home from the west coast leg of my book tour and was greeted by a friend's email that included a link to this page.

I am so touched. Your review is lovely and I thank you (and everyone) from my heart for your kind words. I'm tickled that you loved CeeCee's story!

Anna said...

I'll be reading this for a May blog tour and I can't wait! Glad to see you enjoyed it.

Diary of an Eccentric

Marie said...

Great review! I've added a link to my review to point to yours. I hope that's ok.

gautami tripathy said...

Great thoughts! I too loved it!

Here is my review!