Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (Canada) -(US)
Finished: Feb. 18, 2010
First Published: Jan. 12, 2010
Genre: southern fiction
Momma left her red satin shoes in the middle of the road.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group (Canada).
Reason for Reading: I love southern fiction with eccentric characters, then throw in mental illness to boot and you've so got a book I have to read.
Summary: 12-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt lives with her mother who is crazy. She relives the glorious day that she was crowned the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen often donning her winning dress, sash and tiara, blowing kisses to cars that pass by. Always wearing ballgowns and forever going to Goodwill to purchase more. CeeCee looks after her mom as her dad has virtually left them on a traveling salesman job, rarely returning home and refusing to deal with the situation. Then tragedy strikes as her mum dies and CeeCee is picked up by her great aunt and taken to Savannah, Georgia to live.
Comments: An immensely entertaining book! Very much character driven, CeeCee enters a totally new world seemingly controlled by women of charm, etiquette and manners but also the most eccentric people she has ever met. There is Miz Goodpepper who dresses in exotic clothing and skinny dips in an old bathtub in her backyard each evening, Miz Hobbs the busybody nobody likes who secretly entertains a married policeman in a see-through yellow peignoir, Oletta Jones the cook at CeeCee's aunt's a firm yet loving black woman who becomes the mother CeeCee always wanted and CeeCee the daughter she once had. And this is only to mention a few!
Along with CeeCee's encounters with these women she must come to terms with her past, the childhood she was denied and it takes the length of the book for her to do so. That in itself is the plot of the book. Taking place in the late sixties events do occur which spar with elitism, snobbery, racism, adultery, negligent fathers, the possibility of the heredity of mental illness but all are neatly solved and tucked away, as the book once quotes Scarlett O'Hara, for "tomorrow is another day". This to me is the book's minor downfall. It's too sugary, sweet with a "Care Bear" ending that left me needing to brush my teeth.
For me the book's gold lies in it's study of character. While I simply adored the white women on Gaston Street with their parties and eccentricities, I particularly loved the black women that the cook, Oletta, introduces to CeeCee. Another complete set of eccentric characters from Aunt Sapphire in the nursing home who swears up a storm to her friend who can't talk and likes to put small things in her brassier while everyone pretends not to notice and the one who looks like a man and tells fortunes with carved stones that come from several generations back to Africa.
A really, wonderful, delightful read of southern fiction with great characters you'll love but I wish the author had taken on one of the issues presented to add a bit of tension that could have been resolved in the end to a plot that otherwise lacked any.