Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

"...Mark my words, one day all the wicked deeds Violene Hobbs has done will gather together and form a big black boomerang of karma that will spin through the sky and strike her down."  Miz Goodpepper closed her eyes and sighed.  "I only hope I'm around to see it."

I stared at my hands, not knowing how to respond.  I'd never heard of a holy man named after a llama, I'd never heard of a great gaping vagina, and I didn't know a thing about the black boomerang of karma.  All I knew for sure was this:  I had been plunked into a strange, perfumed world that, as far as I could tell, seemed to be run entirely by women.  (from Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, pages 90-91)

After seeing so many rave reviews of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, I was worried my expectations might have been set too high, but I tried to push all that out of my mind when I opened the book and was carried along as 12-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt journeys out of grief into a better life.  Beth Hoffman had me from the first page, and I enjoyed the book so much that I didn't want it to end.

At a young age, CeeCee is forced to care for her mentally ill mother while her father, a traveling salesman, drifts in and out of their lives.  Despite CeeCee's pleas, her father does little to help her mother -- who wears prom dresses and a tiara as she relives her crowning moment as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen.  Stuck in Ohio, her mother longs to move back to her home in Georgia, which is where CeeCee winds up when her mother dies and her father sends her to live with her great-aunt Tootie.

Saddled with guilt and hit hard by grief, CeeCee immediately takes comfort in Tootie's Savannah mansion and becomes fast friends with Oletta, who came to work for Tootie many years ago and is considered family.  CeeCee also meets a cast of eccentric characters, from Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who flings slugs over the hedge into her neighbor's yard and takes baths in the backyard, to Violene Hobbs, whose escapades in a see-through nightgown with feathers are hilarious.  CeeCee learns a lot about life from these women, helping her heal and find the self that had been hidden by hurt for so long.

Hoffman does a wonderful job balancing the heaviness of the family burden CeeCee carried with light moments, all due to the creation of quirky, loveable characters.  I love novels set in the South with strong female leads -- the descriptions of mouth-watering food, the architecture, the hospitality.  The book took me on an emotional roller coaster, from feeling CeeCee's loneliness and pain, understanding her love of books as an escape, and wanting to slap her father silly to laughing out loud at the women's antics and some of the stories they told.

Set in the 1960s, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt touches upon such weighty topics as mental illness, racism, and the definition of family.  Sprinkle in some humor, and you have the perfect recipe for a book that will make you laugh, tear up, and learn something about not letting past hurts stop you from living a full life.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt from Inkwell Management for review purposes.  I am an Amazon affiliate.



© 2010, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.

18 comments:

Jo-Jo said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this Anna...I know this one is still my favorite this year!

Ti said...

I've been hesitant to pick this one up. Not sure why. I love a young protagonist and everyone seems to have nothing but good things to say about it.

I guess it's just not one of those books that I am absolutely dying to get my hands on and with reading deliberately this year, I have to consider my reading choices carefully.

Arch said...

Hi Anna,

I was looking forward to reading your review on this book today and I must say you haven't disappointed me. I can't wait to read this book (but its on high demand in my local library) but like you mentioned in your review, I am also a tad apprehensive, 'coz I have only been reading rave reviews about this book everywhere and I sure hope it lives up to my expectations..

- arch

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book too! I'm hoping Beth's next book will continue CeeCee's story.

Suko said...

Lovely review, Anna! I must must must read this book! Quirky characters and a story with silver linings--definitely my cup of tea!

Serena said...

This is an all-around lovely novel. I really liked this.

Blodeuedd said...

I am really looking forward to reading this book one day, and I do aim too

Sullivan McPig said...

Thanks for the review. sounds a bit too heavy for me though

Iliana said...

This sounds like a good story but doesn't it remind of Tomato Girl? I'm reading another book right now where the young narrator also has to take care of someone as her parents are kind of out of it. It's good but I may need some space between these type of books you know.

Molly said...

OH -- with every blogger review I want to read this book even more. It is currently sitting on my shelf and I vow to read it before summer's end.

Staci said...

I am worried about high expectations too, but after reading your thoughtful review I no longer harbor those feelings. Can't wait to read this one. I'm doing a read around the world thing and the book is coming from Australia...not sure when it will arrive on my doorstep but I eagerly await it!!

Stephanie said...

This novel sounds right up my alley. I especially like the way you described the balance between heaviness and lightness.

Toni said...

This one has been on my list forever. Great review and I am glad it didn't disappoint!

Alice Teh said...

Hi Anna! I've read so many great reviews about this book too. I'm waiting for the book to come to my country. :)

Kailana said...

I had this out from the library, but didn't get a chance to read it. I will have to try again!

Lisa said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this one--everyone seems to love it!

Jeanne said...

A friend just lent me this book, so I'm glad to see you liked it!

stacybuckeye said...

So glad you liked it. This has been one of my favorites so far this year.