Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
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.
Let me first just say…holy cannoli, I’m halfway there (queue Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin on a Prayer’)! This marks the halfway point for me- 26 books so far. I absolutely love this challenge. I’ve devoured more books since January 1, 2010 than an entire calendar year in the past. I’ve grown as a person and learned so much along the way. It feels so good to be on track with completing my first ever New Year’s Resolution. I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep, hence my reason for never making a resolution before. This has me pondering what reading challenge I will undertake in 2011. If you have any suggestions, bring ’em on!
Ok, back to business…I finally had the opportunity to read this debut novel of one of our biggest fans and friends here at Year of the Bookwormz2010. Beth Hoffman, author of this New York Time’s best selling novel is sweet, kind, insightful and just a peach. She is so busy yet still finds the time to read our blog reviews and send us sweet messages. Fabookulous discovered this book and developed a rapport with Beth immediately. We look so forward to taking Beth to a girly afternoon tea or sharing some sweet tea when she adds our hometown to her paperback tour next year.
A sleepy town in Ohio in the ’60s is where we first meet young Cecilia Honeycutt (CeeCee). Managing the public embarrassment of a mother with mental illness and an absentee father leaves CeeCee with a hefty weight on her shoulders on the brink of her teenage years. CeeCee’s story is the basis for Beth Hoffman’s debut novel rich with southern charm. This novel goes down like an ice-cold glass of lemonade and a plate of cool cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off enjoyed mid-afternoon on a wrap-around-porch with the scent of wisteria blowing through the air.
CeeCee is swept off her feet by her Great Aunt Talullah (Tootie) during the summer of 1967. Tootie takes an otherwise series of unfortunate events, and turns it into the greatest summer of CeeCee’s young adult life giving her a second chance at enjoying her youth with the love, support, and laugh outloud hijinks along the way. The women of Gaston Street turn CeeCee’s loss into something so wonderful you’ll have to read the book to find out the rest.
Mix a pinch of Secret Life of Bees
+ a whole lotta’ Skeeter + Minny from The Help
+ a splash of Thelma & Louise
+ sprinkle of Paula Deen
= Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
“Miz Goodpepper gathered the length of her caftan and stepped on the stump. Her lips formed a devlish smile when she shook one of the slugs onto the end of the pancake flipper. She held out the jar and said, “Will you hold this for a minute?”
I wrinkled my nose but did as she asked. With her right hand she held the handle and with her left she pulled back the top like a slingshot and said, “Enjoy the ride.” She let go and the slug catapulted through the air and disappeared into the darkness of Miz Hobbs’ backyard. She let out a low, haunting laugh. “Oh, I’m not killing them. I’m just sending them on a little ride. Slugs like to fly. They look forward to this- it’s their only sport. With any luck those slugs will eat half of that evil witch’s garden before morning.” Thelma Rae Goodpepper was a mystery to me: wise and funny and kind, yet she also possessed a darkness that was as smooth as silk and as dangerous as a slim blade. Something formidable shimmered in her cool, blue eyes. I didn’t know what to think of her. But I did know, with searing clarity, that I’d never want to fall out of her favor.”
This book had such a satisfying ending. I feel like Beth used the vignette about the hummingbird as a metaphor for CeeCee’s growth. CeeCee was that little hummingbird caught in the spiderweb and then freed to fly as high as she could. Yet somehow I was still left wanting more- in a great way! More of CeeCee, Great Aunt Tootie and Oletta’s bond, and more of CeeCee & Dixie’s new beginning. I felt for a moment that it was Fabookulous and I walking together chatting about books headed in for our first day of school 🙂 I know that a story must be well-rounded with more than just focus on the main characters, as the events of CeeCee’s summer unfold for the reader. I felt like I didn’t get enough time with CeeCee, Toots and ‘O. Maybe another 50-75 pages worth of dialogue and plot development in the beginning or mid-point? Yes, it’s selfish, I know! The part of me that understands how the publishing world works, also knows that breakout authors can get bombarded with book deals right after the first becomes a hit. As one of my other favorite author friends Sarah Pekkanen told me, her second novel was already written by the time the first one went to print. So *crossing fingers and toes*, hopefully Hoffman did this on purpose because CeeCee’s story isn’t yet over? I sure hope not. Make me wait too long and I’ll have to take up slug slingin’… I’ll try not to trip anyone in the process 🙂
A story of love, life, and letting go- Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will not disappoint.
If you need a quick and satisfying read for a day at the pool or beach this summer, I highly recommend this book.
26 down, 26 to go!
In progress: Little Giant of Aberdeen County