Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving Ceecee Honeycutt Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.
The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.
While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.
But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction.
Laugh-out-loud funny, at times heartbreaking, and written in a pitch-perfect voice, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a spirited Southern tale that explores the intricate frailties and strengths of female relationships while illuminating the journey of a young girl who loses her mother but finds many others.” – Goodreads

All right, y’all, I’m just going to come right out and say this… What is up with everyone and their brother’s mother comparing Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman to The Help by Kathryn Stockett?! The two books are nothing alike! Now, I realize that this is not a review of The Help and will therefore refrain from extolling its many, many virtues, however, there is simply no comparison whatsoever between these two novels. What? Because they both take place in the South? Because CeeCee has an African-American housekeeper? Um… isn’t that a little bit of a shallow comparison? I mean, I’m sorry, but there are a lot of books that take place in the South and have African-American housekeepers as characters and are supposedly “charming” stories. Are they all going to get compared to The Help? Isn’t that, like, racial profiling or something?! No. Just, no.

* End Rant Here *

In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, Cecelia Honeycutt is the only daughter of a father who is a travelling salesman and a mentally ill mother who is deteriorating day by day before CeeCee’s eyes. Left alone with her mother for long periods of time, CeeCee struggles to care for her mother and herself, often with the help of her beloved elderly neighbor, Mrs. Odell. CeeCee turns to her love of reading and her schoolwork to try to escape the pain of her everyday life. When her mother dies in a tragic accident, CeeCee’s father decides to send her to Georgia to live with her Great-Aunt Tootie, whom she has not seen since she was an infant. Soon CeeCee is surrounded by a charmed circle of women who take to mothering her in various ways.

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.”

This group of eccentric yet loving women circle around CeeCee and attempt to help her heal and come to terms with her grief over her mother’s death and her anger toward her father for deserting her – and her mother – when they needed him most. Ultimately CeeCee forms an unbreakable bond with her coterie of female mentors, and finds a safe harbor in her new home.

You know, I expected a lot from this book because of all of the rave reviews, but after finishing it, I felt rather let down. The book started out with a gripping premise – CeeCee’s life of neglect as her mother deteriorated into full-fledged psychosis was heartbreaking. Once CeeCee arrived in Savannah, Georgia, however, things got way too saccharine for my taste. This book had so many opportunities to really go somewhere, but every time I thought that was going to happen, the storyline would fizzle out and the scene would change. Hoffman would start to address themes such as racism, the KKK, women’s rights, etc, and then – nothing.

Basically the underlying story here is about grief and overcoming it. Not a lot of time is spent with that topic on the surface, but that is the general idea of CeeCee’s dilemma, and of course her saving grace(s) are Aunt Tootie and the other women of the neighborhood.

It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty”

There was an very fascinating scene in Chapter 27, in which Miss Goodpepper saves a small hummingbird from a large spider’s web, pulling “the stickiest strings free of the bird’s delicate wings.” I thought this was a fascinating example of mirroring the way CeeCee’s circle of caring women are working to pull her out of her own pit of grief and despair. In both cases, wounded creatures are being restored to their natural state of grace.

This book would work well for young adolescents. I would have adored this book when I was twelve years old. The characters that I presently found to be rather one-dimensional would have captivated me at that time. I definitely plan to purchase this book for the daughter of a friend of mine; she is thirteen and I know she will love it. I feel so awful for not loving this book because Penguin books uploaded to YouTube a video of Beth Hoffman talking about Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. She wrote it based on her own experiences as a child, and she was so happy and dreamy when she was talking about it that it broke my heart to have to say I didn’t love the book! You can see the video for yourself below this post. Beth, I’m so sorry! Please forgive me. I swear that your second book, Looking For Me is on my TBR list – check it out if you don’t believe me!

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries Digital Downloads

2 thoughts on “Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

  1. Whitney says:

    I love reading anything you write and I especially like (and even laugh out loud) when you write about The Boy and Poppy. You are so talented and special. I miss laughing with you.

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