Cecelia Rose Honeycutt was just a little girl when she realized that something wasn't quite right with her mother. Her father, a traveling salesman, coped by spending more and more time away from home, leaving CeeCee to raise herself and tend to her mother. The two bright lights in the girl's life were her books and her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Odell.
CeeCee was sure that life couldn't get much worse . . . but it did, setting off a series of nearly unbearable losses. When her great-aunt Tootie arrived to take her away to live in Savannah, CeeCee was filled with more sadness, anger, and fear than any child should have to know. Aunt Tootie and her housekeeper, Oletta, would have to find the key to CeeCee's salvation.
Beth Hoffman created a heartbreakingly real world in her novel Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. We feel CeeCee's pain and shame and fear as she watches her mother's mood swings and unexplainable behavior. We are appalled by the husband and father who chooses to hide from his responsibilities and who seems to either not care or not understand what he is doing to his young daughter. And we fall in love with Aunt Tootie, Oletta, and Mrs. Odell as they reach out to CeeCee and help her see the possibilities.
In the summer of 1967, CeeCee's life changes as dramatically as society is changing across the United States. The girl, however, is moving in the opposite direction: from instability and confusion to the steady rhythms of a safe haven. Through the gentle kindness and patience of the women of Savannah, CeeCee slowly learns to reclaim her power and let go of her fears.
Although Hoffman uses humor to lighten the story, she does not sugar-coat the Savannah of the late 1960s or the hardships of CeeCee's childhood. Among the more serious themes addressed in the novel are racism, marriage, women's roles, mental health care, and parenting. We face these issues through the eyes of a twelve-year-old as she struggles to understand the world around her.
No matter what kind of family life you had, as you get to know CeeCee and the women who are important to her, you will be reminded of the people who made a difference in your own life: the widow next door who always had homemade cookies, the family friend who understood you perfectly, or the teacher who helped you see your potential. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will stay with you long after you finish the last page.
The novel can be read on different levels and touches on several important topics, making it an obvious book club selection. The story is sure to lead to informative and lively discussion.
I both read and listened to Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. The audio edition (Penguin Audiobooks) was read by Jenna Lamia, who is an experienced and excellent narrator. Her voice brings CeeCee alive, nicely capturing the girl's unique mix of naivete, youth, distress, loneliness, and strength. Lamia's soft Southern accents and subtle inflections enhance the character of each woman in the novel.
To learn more about Beth Hoffman, watch the video, visit her website and blog, and follow her on Twitter.
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Published by Viking/ Pamela Dorman Books, 2010
Challenges: Support Your Library, New Author, Audiobooks, 100+
Source: Review & Borrowed (see review policy)
(Note: I received a finished hardcover from the author and borrowed the audio from library.)