Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

As the story opens, twelve year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is trapped in the caretaker role for a mentally ill mother while her traveling salesman father is almost always absent.  Camille's delusional attempts to recapture the glory of her "1951 Vidalia Onion Queen" days with a lopsided tiara and tattered prom dresses from the local Goodwill Store cause gossip and strange looks from the community, but no offers of help. Worse still, CeeCee is isolated and shunned.  How can a young girl's soul survive and grow in such a damaged environment.  CeeCee finds solace in her school studies and her books.    When an accident causes Camille's death, and it becomes apparent that her father cannot or will not abandon his days on the road to be a real father, CeeCee is sent down South to Savannah to live with a great aunt that she has never met.

I feel the literary market is flooded with fiction (and sadly, some nonfiction) about young children with absent or so severely damaged parents that nuturing and stablility are totally absent.  From that beginning, the stories may take different avenues to the "saving" of the child, but one frequently tale is that of life with a substitute parent, often a grandparent or a servant.  Usually there are initial problems and only gradually does the child realize that he or she now has a safe, secure place to be, a place where he or she can be assured of the love around them.  Some readers may find similarities between this novel and Secret Life of Bees. The Help, or
The Queen of Palmyra.  All are excellent reads and favorites among book clubs in past years. While I like CeeCee, it doesn't quite have the uniqueness of Bees or Help;  However, it is possibly the most hopeful.

In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, black housekeeper Oletta Jones offers that unconditional love, but so does Aunt Tootie.  Meanwhile, CeeCee maintains a connection to her former neighbor, elderly Mrs. Odell, the only one in Ohio who had seemed to care for the young girl.  It seems that CeeCee quickly settles into living the lazy summer Savannah life, but little by little her insecurities and fears will surface as she becomes more comfortable with her new family.  Meanwhile, readers will be highly entertained by Tootie's attempts to save old Savannah and the antics of her closest neighbors.  One favorite episode of mine is when Oletta takes CeeCee to the nursing home and CeeCee meets Miss Obee, a mute, who delights in stealing the marbles from the Chinese Checker board and grows orchids in a rusted out, abandoned car.

I started off by listening to an audio version of this title and narrator (I believe it is Jenna Lamia) did a superb job of capturing a young girl's persona. I easily could have finished listening to the book, but since I had a print copy and I kept hearing such well written lines that I wanted to remember, I switched to the print edition.  Our book club will be discussing this title Thursday night and I can't wait to hear who laughed at what scenes.  Hint:  I am sure we will be talking about one Polaroid camera and the travels of a certain bra.

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