10 May 2010

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

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.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt at Powell's
For Audible and Simply Audiobooks see sidebar
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Published by Viking/ Pamela Dorman Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021390
Challenges: Support Your Library, New Author, Audiobooks, 100+
YTD: 41
Source: Review & Borrowed (see review policy)
(Note: I received a finished hardcover from the author and borrowed the audio from library.)
Rating: A


Julie P. 5/10/10, 6:29 AM  

I loved this book too. We read it for book club last month, and it was just terrific getting to hear about the story and characters from Beth!

Nise' 5/10/10, 7:52 AM  

Both my mother and I have had a friend like Cee Cee's mom. It was interesting to look back and talk about the advancements in care of mental illness from the 60s (her friend) to the 90s (my friend). This one is on my TBR!

Melissa Walker 5/10/10, 8:11 AM  

I've heard only great things about this book!

Lesa 5/10/10, 8:14 AM  

Terrific review, Beth, of a book that is perfect for book clubs, as you said. I loved CeeCee. Can't you see that book as a movie with the kind of cast that made Steel Magnolias a success?


Anonymous,  5/10/10, 8:44 AM  

I'm glad to hear the audio is well done. I like to go back and listen to books that I've loved in that format after a time.

Marie 5/10/10, 9:29 AM  

Very nice review. I really enjoyed this book, too.

Pam Pho 5/10/10, 11:02 AM  

I have had this book for a while already. You just motivated me to read it. Thanks!

bermudaonion 5/10/10, 11:13 AM  

I loved this book and think Beth is just awesome! I'm looking forward to reading whatever she writes next.

Sandy Nawrot 5/10/10, 12:12 PM  

My mom and my daughter both read this book (of course I'm over here drowning in a sea of books) and they both LOVED it. My mom stayed up half the night to finish it. I can't wait to make time and read it.

Bonnie 5/10/10, 12:45 PM  

I loved this book and is on my list of all time favorites. CeeCee touches your heart and you are so right that this book will remind you of those peope who made a difference in your own life. I can't wait for Beth Hoffman's next book. Wonderful review!

serendipity_viv 5/10/10, 1:53 PM  

I love this book completely and Beth Hoffman is such a nice person too.

Athira 5/10/10, 7:08 PM  

Beautiful review! I get a good picture of the book, and that has made me excited about reading this book soon!

Margot 5/10/10, 7:38 PM  

It was hard to read your good review and all these comments because I'm am still waiting for my turn at the library. I suppose I should break down and buy it. If I do, it will be in audio based on your experience.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 5/10/10, 8:38 PM  

great review Beth; I liked this one a lot.

Jenners 5/10/10, 9:37 PM  

I'm amazed you read it and listened to it. And I like this book but I didn't fall in love with it ... but so many people seem to.

nat @book, line, and sinker 5/10/10, 10:30 PM  

i also enjoyed this book--glad you liked it too. i love the embedded vid--haven't seen it before!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 5/11/10, 12:04 AM  

When I started reading this, I had to jump on Twitter and ask Beth how she wrote her characters with such compassion. She really is a marvel. Great review.

Wrighty 5/11/10, 11:34 PM  

I can't wait to read this! I haven't heard a bad review yet. I usually have a hard time paying attention to audio books (I tend to drift off...) but I might have to give this one a try. Great review!

Alice 5/16/10, 9:12 AM  

Another great review of the book! I've read a few and they all have wonderful things to say about it. It's on my wish list and I hope to get it when it hits the bookstores at my place. :D

Literary Feline 5/16/10, 9:16 PM  

Thank you for your great review, Beth. I've been wanting to read this one for some time and hope to get to it soon. It sounds like such a touching story.

Unknown 5/17/10, 4:24 PM  

I'm listening to this one currently and I'm loving it.

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