Wednesday 13 January 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Published in 2009 by Pamela Dorman Books. Release Date in America - 12th January 2010.

First Paragraph

Momma left her red satin shoes in the middle of the road. That's what three eyewitnesses told the police. The first time I remember my mother wearing red shoes was on a snowy morning in December 1962, the year I was seven years old. I walked into the kitchen and found her sitting at the table. No lights were on, but in the thin haze of dawn that pushed through the frostbitten window, I could see red high-heeled shoes peeking out from beneath the hem of her robe. There was no breakfast waiting, and no freshly ironed school dress hanging on the basement doorknob. Momma just sat and stared out the window with empty eyes, her hands limp in her lap, her coffee cold and untouched.

I was searching around the internet a few months ago and I came across this wonderful book that everyone was talking about. I added it to my Friday Finds and the author Beth Hoffman contacted me and asked me if I would like a copy. I was over the moon at her generosity and she sent it over from America. I am officially the first person in England to read this book. Yay me!

I couldn't wait to read this book, but I was struggling to finish my challenges, so it took me ages to get around to it. How I now wish I hadn't waited. I just loved this book.

The book tells the story of CeeCee, a sweet young girl living with a psychotic mother. Her father left home, leaving CeeCee to cope with her mother who was convinced she was still the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. Life was really tough for CeeCee, yet she coped; until her mother was killed by an icecream truck. CeeCee is distraught,especially when she is shipped off to live a great aunt that she has never heard of. Can life get any worse.

When CeeCee moves in with Aunt Tootie and her feisty maid Oleta, life changes for the better. Aunt Tootie surrounds CeeCee with a wonderful world filled with good old Southern hospitality. CeeCee falls in love with all the eccentric people that make her welcome in Savannah. Her world becomes full of strong, wilful, independent women who nurture CeeCee back to happiness.

This book is full of a series of episodic events which highlight CeeCee's spiritual growth over her first summer in Savannah. You sit on the sidelines as you watch CeeCee meet the most amazing women who quickly pull CeeCee into their world.

The first part of the book is really sad until CeeCee's move to Savannah and then it brightened up to a wonderful world of life in the South. It reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, where the first part is filmed in black and white, then Dorothy lands in Oz, and the world is just full of colour.

I fell in love with Aunt Tootie and Oleta. Aunt Tootie is like the grandmother we all dream of. She spends a lot of time involving CeeCee in her life, by sharing her passion for historical buildings and her love of gardening. Oleta is a real feisty character, who really brings CeeCee out of her shell, by her no nonsense attitude. The house feels warm and inviting and you know if you knocked on their front door, they would invite you in for one of Oleta's 'fabulous cinnamon rolls'.

I just loved every aspect of this book. The passages were rich and full of flavour. I wanted to soak up every word that was written in this book.

I want to share a few of my favourite passages with you, because I found them so utterly beautiful.

A conversation between CeeCee and Mrs Odell, her beloved next door neighbour.
' Life is full of change, honey. That's how we learn and grow. When we're born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book. Chapter by chapter, we live and learn'.
'But, Mrs Odell, I've never heard of a Life Book'.
'It's not a book you can see or touch. It's a book that's held deep within your heart. It's guarded by your spirit'.
'My spirit?'
'Yes',she said, smoothing a loose strand of hair from her face. 'When a chapter of your Life Book is complete, your spirit knows it's time to turn the page so a new chapter can begin. even when you're scared or think you're not ready, your spirit knows you are.'

CeeCee's arrival in Savannah.
The biggest trees I'd ever seen reached out to one another as if trying to hold hands over wide, brick-paved streets, and grand old houses stood tall and proud on smooth-dappled lawns. Like a curious spaniel, I leaned my head out of the window and breathed in.

CeeCee's thoughts after a conversation about the Dalai Lama and the Karma Sutra.
I had never hear 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.

This book is really beautiful and one that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It reminded me a little of The Secret Life of Bees, purely for the unhappy beginning and the move to the South, but that is where it ends. I kept thinking of Steel Magnolias as I read it, as the book is full of such strong women who have never needed a man to help them live their lives. It would be an ideal read for the Women Unbound Challenge as well as the Southern Reading Challenge.

This is the first book to actually make me laugh and cry. When it is sad, be prepared to have your hankies at the ready, and when it is funny, still keep those hankies handy as you will be crying with laughter.
I could not fault this book at all, I loved every word of it and it will definitely be one that I will read again in the future. I really hope that the rumours of a sequel are true, because I want to know more about this unusual family. Well done Beth, on such a fantastic debut novel.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the book. I have not read it or even heard of it before but it sounds great. I enjoyed THe Secret Life of Bees so I am sure I would enjoy this one as well.

  2. I loved this book too! I felt it captured the spirit of the South perfectly. Your review is fantastic!

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, Viv! I've heard so many good things about this book and participated in two (I think) giveaways in hope to win this book. Thanks for the review!

  4. Terrific review. I loved this one, as did everyone else who has read it --it appears.

  5. I have not read a single negative remark about this book. Apparently I have no choice but to run out tomorrow and purchase it!

    Congratulations on being the first person in England to read and review it!!

  6. I'm just going to be reading this book so I'll come back when I do but I'm glad to see you liked it. I haven't read a bad review yet.

  7. Great review Viv--I agree with your sentiments 100%! I hope there is a sequel too. It was a true comfort read and one that I just didn't want to put down. Hoffman's prose just drew me in. My daughter teases me about liking "southern women" books, and she is right. I do love them--the well written ones always make me feel good!

  8. I now know that I must read this book. Thanks for a fantastic review!

  9. This book sounds amazing! And how nice of the author to send you a copy :) I've already put this book on my wishlist, so we'll see how that goes!

  10. What a lovely review. It's on my list and I hope to read it very soon.

  11. That is so sweet of her! just cos of that I want to read this book :D
    And cos it sounds good, lol

  12. What an opening paragraph and how kind of the author to send you a copy of what sounds like a great read.. Thanks for a fab review, I'm away to add this book to my to be read list.

  13. Wonderful review - I am buying this book TODAY!

  14. Lovely review! It seems this is one a lot of people like. I'll have to keep it on my radar!

  15. Great review! I love your analogy of The Wizard of Oz. I wasn't sure about this book but now I want to read it. Thanks!

  16. I LOVE Southern books, so this sounds wonderful! Great review Vivienne. :D

  17. Oh I've only heard good stuff about this book. It just sounds like such a bittersweet story! Thank you for such a great review Vivienne!

    Going to see if I can find it at my library.

  18. I have yet to read this but would love to! That cover - I swear I am going to print it out and frame it! So beautiful

  19. I haven't heard anything negative about this book yet. I don't know when I'll have time to read it, but it may be an impulse buy at some point in my future.

  20. Glad you loved it. It does sound like a good book, and such a pretty cover.
    Great quotes too!


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