Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt Saves Summer Reading!

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (SSB HOF Main)
Reviewed by Doris

The last couple of books I read have depressed or disappointed me. I read to relax and enjoy. I don’t want to close a book and feel like there is no hope for the world and there is nothing about which to smile. Call me shallow but there is enough dismal and painful real news all around us so I want my books to be fun, engaging, and worth the effort to make time to read. Yes, I do read the tomes, but I prefer the heart-stopping thriller, the easy cozy, or the sizzling romantic mystery. So, with trepidation I picked up Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and settled in to see if this new book would be worth my time. Well, folks, this is a keeper. Beth Hoffman’s first novel is tender, sweet, funny, outrageous, and best of all, a good story.

Cecelia Rose Honeycutt is twelve years old. She lives in a small town in Ohio with her Southern beauty queen mother and boorish, disconnected father who is gone for weeks at a time. CeeCee’s mother has been sliding into psychosis since CeeCee was a tiny child, forcing CeeCee to be much more the parent than child. As her mother’s bizarre behaviors increase, the kids and people in town shun CeeCee. Her only friend is Mrs. O’Dell, an eighty-year-old neighbor who tries to make sure CeeCee is fed and loved as best she can. Life for CeeCee is bitter, painful, and confusing. Then, in one tragic moment her mother dies. Her mother’s Aunt Tootie is summoned from Savannah by CeeCee’s father, and CeeCee is told she will be living with Tootie far from everything and everyone she has known. Heartbroken at leaving Mrs. O’Dell and hating her father with everything in her, CeeCee enters to a new life where money is no longer a problem, and home will take on a whole new definition for the lonely child.

In Savannah CeeCee finds a plethora of memorable characters that I enjoyed immensely. There is Tootie’s housekeeper Oletta who is the best cook in Savannah and who keeps everyone in line. There are the ladies with whom Aunt Tootie saves the old homes of Savannah, and there are her neighbors. And, most importantly, there is Auntie Tootie who lives for every moment and is the epitome of the Steel Magnolia. If you have lived in the South you know these women. You will laugh out loud and your heart will be touched by CeeCee’s grief and fears. Some critics have said Hoffman only hints at issues that should have been addressed such as the racism in 1960’s Savannah or CeeCee’s terrible fears that she will inherit her mother’s madness.

This book is not about those things.

It is about CeeCee’s journey to a home and a safe place where she feels loved. Though it is predictable in some ways and perhaps too simple, I enjoyed the journey with this remarkable young character whose courage and seeking heart are worthy of someone many times her age. The ending is perfect—perhaps too perfect for some readers—but I closed the book smiling, and that is why I read.

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