Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman - A Sweet Southern Tale of Friendship and Love
There is a long line of Southern women writers who are beloved for their fictional masterpieces – Margaret Mitchell (“Gone With The Wind”), Harper Lee (“To Kill A Mockingbird”), Fannie Flagg (“Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Café”), Rebecca Wells (“Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”), to name a few. With her debut novel, “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt,” Beth Hoffman stands poised to join the ranks of these cherished authors with a sweet Southern story of growing up and coming home.
Life changed for 12-year old Cecelia Rose “CeeCee” Honeycutt in 1967. For years, she has been the sole caretaker of her mentally-unstable mother, Camille. CeeCee’s momma was known as the “crazy” lady, who would parade through Willoughby, Ohio in torn prom dresses, a tiara on her head, trying desperately to recapture her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. A traveling salesman, CeeCee’s daddy had long ago had enough of his young wife’s foolishness, and left Camille and CeeCee to fend for themselves most of the time. But when tragedy strikes and Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to face an uncertain world alone. To the rescue comes a whirlwind of perfume, hats and Southern graciousness in the form of her previously unknown Great-Aunt Tootie Caldwell.
In her beautiful berry-red Packard convertible, Aunt Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah, Georgia to a world that seems to CeeCee to be run entirely by women. From the exotic next-door neighbor Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's very wise (and soon to be CeeCee’s best friend) housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to the crazy and a little bit nasty Violene Hobbs, who is known to entertain a local police officer in her canary-yellow feathery peignoir, the ladies of Gaston Street help young CeeCee adjust to her new life in the South. And she is thoroughly entertained and enchanted for an entire summer.
In “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt,” Beth Hoffman paints an amazing portrait of life in 1960s Georgia, capturing a certain unusual gentleness of the time, with the social and political upheaval of the world a long way from the beautiful bubble CeeCee inhabited. You can almost smell the sweet magnolia blossoms and the fresh peach preserves in every word. She has also captured the rarified glory of sweet female friendship that is so indicative of women raised in the South. (That’s not to say Northern gals don’t have close friendships, it just different below the Mason-Dixon line, sugar!) This is gorgeous and glorious novel that celebrates the indomitable strengths of those female friendships and how very much those friendships are cherished.
What a brilliant way to start off a new year of reading! Run, do not walk, to get your copy of this marvelous novel, share it with your best girlfriends and then sit back and bask in the Southern sweetness of “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.”