Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel

4.3 966
by Beth Hoffman

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Steel Magnolias meets The Help in Beth Hoffman’s New York Times bestselling Southern debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her mother, Camille, the town’s tiara-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock, a woman who is trapped in

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Steel Magnolias meets The Help in Beth Hoffman’s New York Times bestselling Southern debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her mother, Camille, the town’s tiara-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock, a woman who is trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, CeeCee’s long-lost great-aunt, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. There, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity—one that appears to be run entirely by strong, wacky women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons; to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones; to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

A timeless coming of age novel set in the 1960s, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship, and charts the journey of an unforgettable girl who loses one mother, but finds many others in the storybook city of Savannah. As Kristin Hannah, author of Fly Away, says, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is “packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Anyone in need of a southern-girl-power fix will find [Saving CeeCee Honeycutt] engaging. And it offers an invaluable reminder: Even when things look bleak, a few good friends can turn your life around.”

“A peach of a novel.”
Ladies Home Journal

“CeeCee Honeycutt is a sweet, perceptive girl with a troubled family, and this story of the summer that transforms her life is rich with hard truths and charm. This book unfolds like a lush southern garden, blooming with vivid characters, beauty, and surprises.”
Kim Edwards, bestselling author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

“An absolutely delightful debut novel packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart.  From the moment you first step into young CeeCee’s unique world, you'll never want to leave.”
Kristin Hannah, bestselling author of Fly Away

“Reading Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, I barely stopped laughing, even as my heart broke and broke again for CeeCee.  She goes through the wringer with Southern grace, but you never forget all she’s lost, and you never lose sight of her courage and deep resources.  Beth Hoffman has written her heart out in this novel that will clearly be the first of many.”
Luanne Rice, bestselling author of The Lemon Orchard and Little Night

“A tender and touching debut. Charming, disarming, sweet as the scent of magnolias on a Southern summer night, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a true delight.”
Mary Kay Andrews, bestselling author of Ladies' Night

Publishers Weekly
Hoffman's debut, a by-the-numbers Southern charmer, recounts 12-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt's recovery from a childhood with her crazy mother, Camille, and cantankerous father, Carl, in 1960s Willoughby, Ohio. After former Southern beauty queen Camille is struck and killed by an ice cream truck, Carl hands over Cecelia to her great-aunt Tootie. Whisked off to a life of privilege in Savannah, Ga., Cecelia makes fast friends with Tootie's cook, Oletta, and gets to know the cadre of eccentric women who flit in and out of Tootie's house, among them racist town gossip Violene Hobbs and worldly, duplicitous Thelma Rae Goodpepper. Aunt Tootie herself is the epitome of goodness, and Oletta is a sage black woman. Unfortunately, any hint of trouble is nipped in the bud before it can provide narrative tension, and Hoffman toys with, but doesn't develop, the idea that Cecelia could inherit her mother's mental problems. Madness, neglect, racism and snobbery slink in the background, but Hoffman remains locked on the sugary promise of a new day. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In Hoffman's charming debut, Cecelia Rose (CeeCee) Honeycutt tells the story of her tragic life and the strong women who stepped in to save her. At age 12, CeeCee realizes her mother, flouncing around Willoughby, OH, in prom dresses and matching shoes, is crazy and the town's laughingstock. Her father is never home, and nothing is going to change so CeeCee buries herself in books as an escape. But her true liberation comes after her mother's tragic death when great-aunt Tootie sweeps CeeCee off to Savannah. There, a group of powerful, independent women offer the young girl love, laughter, and a new chance at life. Readers who enjoy strong female characters will appreciate CeeCee, a survivor despite her heartbreaking childhood, and Aunt Tootie and her friends, all of them steel magnolias. VERDICT Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best, this coming-of-age novel is sure to be a hit with the book clubs that adopted Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. Interestingly enough, both novels share the same editor. [Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]—Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ
Kirkus Reviews
Sunshine enters an unhappy child's life in a Southern getting-of-wisdom novel as uncomplicatedly sweet as one of Oletta's famous cinnamon rolls. A fairy tale with streaks of psychology and social conscience, CeeCee Rose Honeycutt's odyssey unfolds mainly in Savannah, Ga. The 12-year-old moves there in the late 1960s to live with her kindly, wealthy Great-Aunt Tootie after the death of CeeCee's increasingly deranged mother and with the encouragement of her neglectful, distant father. Tootie's cook Oletta-big, black and stern, but with a heart of gold-exerts a growing influence on the girl, fattening her up with delicious food while offering life lessons, reassurance and companionship. The novel's society is almost exclusively female and generally quirky, ranging from Tootie's eccentric elderly friends to her feuding neighbors. Male characters are rare and generally flawed: layabouts, crooks and emotional black holes. Race issues supply the strongest story line (a robbery on the beach) in a narrative more episodic than linear. Mainly, CeeCee comes to terms with her feelings of shame, guilt and loss over her mother; hears about slavery, segregation and the KKK; encounters a wide range of human behavior, from generosity to mean-spiritedness; makes a friend; and above all finds a new, all-female family. Humor, wish-fulfillment and buckets of sentiment bulk out an innocent, innovation-free debut that would work well for teenage readers.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page


































Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
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South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in 2010 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Copyright © Beth Hoffman, 2010

All rights reserved

A Pamela Dorman Book/Viking

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Hoffman, Beth.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt : a novel / Beth Hoffman.

p. cm.

eISBN : 978-1-101-18985-6

1. Teenage girls—Fiction. 2. Families—Mental health—Fiction. 3. Eccentrics and eccentricities—Fiction. 4. Women—Georgia—Fiction. 5. Savannah (Ga.)—Fiction. 6. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

PS3608.O4774S28 2010

813’.6—dc22 2009035348

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

This book is dedicated to Marlane Vaicius,
the best friend a girl could ever hope to find. Marlane, you are my Dixie.
In loving memory of my great-aunt, Mildred Williams Caldwell
of Danville, Kentucky, the remarkably generous and wise little woman
who ignited the flame that inspired this book.


Exceptional people have pressed their fingertips along the edges of this book, and I’m indebted to them all.

Grateful thanks to literary agent extraordinaire Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management, for opening the window and hanging a star in the October sky. With heartfelt gratitude, I thank a rare jewel in the publishing world—the gracious and enormously talented Pamela Dorman—for her brilliant and inspiring editing. A warm thanks goes to Leigh Butler, Hal Fessenden, Julie Miesionczek, Nancy Sheppard, Shannon Twomey, Carolyn Coleburn, Randee Marullo, Veronica Windholz, Dennis Swaim, and Andrew Duncan for their guidance and kindness. And a big thanks to Clare Ferraro, Susan Petersen Kennedy, and everyone at Pamela Dorman Books/Viking Penguin for believing in CeeCee—and me.

A special thanks to Robin Smith for her sharp eyes, good humor, and friendship. And speaking of friends, had it not been for the support of Marlane Vaicius, Debra Kreutzer, Margaret Vincent, and Marie Behling, I’d surely be making macaroni art somewhere in Idaho.

A tender thank-you goes to my husband, Mark, a gentleman of great integrity and kindness.

Often in life there are last things to say, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t seize this opportunity to tip the brim of my hat in the direction of a man named Dan. He knows why.


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 stood by her side and breathed in the sweet scent of lavender talcum powder that clung to the tufts of her robe.

“What’s the matter, Momma?”

I waited and waited. Finally she turned from the window and looked at me. Her skin was as frail as tissue, and her voice wasn’t much more than a whisper when she smoothed her hand over my cheek and said, “Cecelia Rose, I’m taking you to Georgia. I want you to see what real living is like. All the women dress so nice. And the people are kind and friendly—it’s so different from how things are here. As soon as I feel better, we’ll plan a trip—just you and me.”

“But what about Dad, will he come too?”

She squeezed her eyes closed and didn’t answer.

Momma stayed sad for the rest of the winter. Just when I thought she’d never smile again, spring came. When the lilacs bloomed in great, fluffy waves of violet, Momma went outside and cut bouquets for every room in the house. She painted her fingernails bright pink, fixed her hair, and slipped into a flowery-print dress. From room to room she dashed, pushing back curtains and throwing open the windows. She turned up the volume of the radio, took hold of my hands, and danced me through the house.

We whirled through the living room, into the dining room, and around the table. Right in the middle of a spin, Momma abruptly stopped. “Oh, my gosh,” she said, taking in a big gulp of air and pointing to the mirror by the door, “we look so much alike. When did that happen? When did you start to grow up?”

We stood side by side and gazed at our reflections. What I saw was two smiling people with the same heart-shaped face, blue eyes, and long brown hair—Momma’s pulled away from her face in a headband and mine tied back in a ponytail.

“It’s amazing,” my mother said, gathering her hair in her hand and holding it back in a ponytail like mine. “Just look at us, CeeCee. I bet when you get older, people will think we’re sisters. Won’t that be fun?” She giggled, took hold of my hands, and spun me in circles till my feet lifted off the floor.

She was so happy that after we finished dancing, she took me into town and bought all sorts of new clothes and ribbons for my hair. Momma bought herself so many pairs of new shoes that the salesman laughed and said, “Mrs. Honeycutt, I believe you have more shoes than the Bolshoi Ballet.” Neither Momma nor I knew what that meant, but the salesman sure thought he was clever. So we laughed along with him as he helped us carry our packages to the car.

After stuffing the trunk full with bags and boxes, we ran across the street to the five-and-dime, where we sat at the lunch counter and shared a cheeseburger, a bowl of French fries, and a chocolate milk shake.

That spring sure was something. I’d never seen Momma so happy. Every day was a big celebration. I’d come home from school and she’d be waiting, all dressed up with a big smile on her face. She’d grab her handbag, hurry me to her car, and off we’d go to do more shopping.

Then came the day when Dad arrived home from a three-week business trip. Momma and I were sitting at the kitchen table, she with a magazine and me with a coloring book and crayons. When my dad opened the closet door to hang up his jacket, he was all but knocked senseless when an avalanche of shoe boxes rained down on him.

“Good Christ!” he barked, turning to look at Momma. “How much money have you been spending?”

When Momma didn’t answer, I put down my crayon and smiled. “Daddy, we’ve been shopping for weeks, but everything we got was for free.”

“Free? What are you talking about?”

I nodded wisely. “Yep. All Momma had to do was show the salesman a square of plastic, and he let us have whatever we wanted.”

“What the hell?” Dad pounded across the kitchen floor, yanked Momma’s handbag from the hook by the door, and pulled the square of plastic from her wallet. “Damn it, Camille,” he said, cutting it up with a pair of scissors. “How many times do I have to tell you? This has got to stop. No more credit cards. You keep this up and you’ll put us in the poor house. You hear me?”

Momma licked her finger and turned a page of the magazine.

He leaned down and looked at her. “Have you been taking your pills?” She ignored him and turned another page. “Camille, I’m talking to you.”

The sharpness of his words wiped the shine right out of her eyes.

Dad shook his head and pulled a beer from the refrigerator. He huffed and puffed out of the kitchen, kicking shoes out of his way as he headed for the living room. I heard him dump his wide, beefy body into the recliner, muttering the way he always did whenever he was in a bad mood. Which, as far as I could tell, was pretty much always.

My father didn’t smile or laugh very much, and he had a limitless gift for making me feel about as important as a lost penny on the sidewalk. Whenever I’d show him a drawing I’d made or try to tell him about something I’d learned in school, he’d get fidgety and say, “I’m tired. We’ll talk another time.”

But another time never came.

He was a machine-tool salesman and spent much of his time in places like Michigan and Indiana. Usually he’d stay away all week and would come home only on weekends. And most times those weekends were filled with an unbearable tension that sprung loose on Saturday night.

Momma would get all dolled up, walk into the living room, and beg him to take her out. “C’mon Carl,” she’d say, tugging at his arm, “let’s go dancing like we used to. We never have fun anymore.”

His face would turn sour and he’d say, “No, Camille. I’m not taking you anywhere until you straighten up. Now go take your pills.”

She’d cry and say she didn’t need any pills, he’d get mad, turn up the volume of the TV, and drink one beer after another, and I’d run upstairs and hide in my bedroom. Whole months would go by and I’d only hear an occasional kind word pass between them. Even less frequently I’d see them touch. Before too long even those things faded away, and my father’s presence in the house faded right along with them.

Momma seemed glad that Dad stayed away so much. One day I was sitting on the floor of her bedroom cutting out paper dolls while she sat at her vanity and put on makeup. “Who needs him anyway?” she said, leaning close to the mirror as she smoothed on bright red lipstick. “I’ll tell you something, Cecelia Rose. Northerners are exactly like their weather—cold and boring. And I swear, none of them has one iota of etiquette or propriety. Do you know that not one single person in this godforsaken town even knows I’m a pageant queen? They’re all a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud, just like your father.”

“You don’t like Daddy anymore?”

“No,” she said, turning to look at me. “I don’t.”

“He doesn’t come home very much. Where is he, Momma?”

She blotted her lips with a tissue. “That old fool? He’s not here because he’s down at the cemetery with one foot stuck in the grave. And that’s another thing. Never marry an older man. I mean it, CeeCee. If an older man ever sweeps you off your feet, just get up and run away as fast as you can.”

I set down my scissors. “How old is Daddy?”

“Fifty-seven,” she said, rubbing a smudge of rouge from her cheek. “And look what he’s done to me.” She scowled at her reflection in the mirror and shook her head. “I’m only thirty-three and I already have lines on my face. Your father is nothing but a Yankee liar. I can’t tell you how many promises he made just so I’d marry him and move up here to this god-awful excuse for a town. But all those promises amounted to nothing but a five-hundred-pound bag of dog breath.”

As I was about to ask her what that meant, a strange, icy expression moved across her face. She gazed down at her wedding picture and slowly lifted it from the vanity. With her tube of lipstick she drew a big red X over my dad’s face, then shrieked with laughter, fluffed her hair, and walked out the door.

What caused it, I didn’t know, but after that day Momma’s moods began to spike and plummet like a yo-yo. One day she’d pitch a fit and break everything she could get her hands on, and the next day she’d be as calm as a glass of water. Then, out of nowhere, she’d up and vanish. I’d panic and run down the street, calling her name while my heart hammered against my ribs. Eventually I’d find her going from door to door in the neighborhood, asking for donations for some charity nobody ever heard of. A few people felt sorry for her and would drop a coin or two into the jar she held in her hands, but most people closed the door in her face.

She became so unpredictable that I never knew what would be waiting for me when I got home from school—a plate of gooey half-baked cookies or muffled sobs leaking from beneath her closed bedroom door. I didn’t know what was wrong with her, but I did know that none of the other mothers in our town acted the way she did. They’d come into school carrying trays filled with freshly baked cupcakes, and I’d see them walking along the sidewalks with their children and sometimes a dog. The other mothers were happy and seemed like they were fun to spend time with, but Momma wasn’t fun anymore, and there were times when she acted so strange that she scared me.

Each year I watched her grasp on reality loosen as she slipped further away, but the worst part of her descent began on a breezy spring afternoon when I was nine years old.

I was headed home from school, enjoying the way the wind tickled my face, when three boys ran by. One of them skidded to a stop and poked me in the shoulder. “Hey, Honeycutt, it’s not Christmas, so how come there’s a big fruitcake in your front yard?”

He let out a cruel, sputtering laugh and disappeared around the corner. When I turned down my street and saw Momma, a rush of heat scalded my cheeks. My brunette mother had bleached her hair white and was standing in the front yard wearing a slam-on-the-brakes horror of a yellow prom dress. It was so tight the seams were puckered up in some places and split open in others, and beneath the full, gathered skirt were layers and layers of stiff white petticoats.

She didn’t look a thing like a fruitcake—no, she did not. My mother looked like a big lemon meringue pie. And if that weren’t bad enough, sparks of light burst into the air from the rhinestone tiara that sat cockeyed on her head as she blew kisses to everyone who drove by.

“I love you,” she called, waving to a carload of teenage boys in a convertible.

The driver screeched to a stop and backed up. His greasy, slicked-back hair shimmered in the sunlight. He took a drag from a stubby cigarette and flicked it into the street. “Hey, baby,” he called to Momma. “That’s some outfit. What’s going on?”

“Please vote for me,” she sang out across the lawn. “I’ll make y’all proud of this great state of Georgia.”

All of the boys laughed, and one of them said, “Georgia? What’s the matter—you lost or something? This is Willoughby, Ohio.”

Oblivious to the truth of his words, she blew him a kiss. “Now, don’t forget to vote for me.”

One of the boys in the backseat motioned to Momma. “Sure, I’ll vote for you, honey. C’mon over and sit on my lap.”

She giggled and set off toward the car. Just as she reached the sidewalk, the driver hit the gas and laid rubber on the road. Clouds of smoke rolled into the air, but Momma kept right on blowing kisses.

I was so embarrassed, I thought I’d implode right there on the sidewalk. Though I knew I should grab her arm and haul her back inside the house, my shame sent me running in the opposite direction. With my books hugged to my chest, I ran full throttle until I reached the public library. I pushed through the heavy wooden door of the ladies’ restroom, hid in one of the stalls, and opened a book. I read as fast as I could, gobbling up pages until the wild thumping of my heart subsided, until the story on the pages became real and my life became nothing but a story—a story that simply wasn’t true. Couldn’t be true. I stayed in the restroom until the maintenance man came in to wash the floors and shooed me out.

Not long after that day, Momma began walking to the Goodwill store. She’d buy all sorts of old prom dresses and formal gowns, and if she happened to find any dyed-to-match shoes, well, she’d buy those too, even if they were three sizes too big.

One afternoon I was lying on my bed, reading Stuart Little, when I heard Momma’s footsteps on the stairs accompanied by the rustle of paper bags—always a surefire announcement that she had struck gold during her Goodwill shopping spree. I heard her laugh, giddy with anticipation, as she tried on the newest addition to her wardrobe. Within a few minutes she called to me, “Cecelia Rose, come in here, darlin’, and see what I found.”

I pressed my nose farther into the book and pretended not to hear, but Momma called again, and when I didn’t answer, I heard the sharp clickety-click of her high-heeled shoes coming down the hall. She threw open my bedroom door and exclaimed, “Will you just look at your momma! Isn’t she something?”

She stood in the doorway, eyes glazed wide from her Goodwill shopping hangover. Then she gathered up the skirt of a raggedy old prom dress she’d just bought for a dollar and twirled into my room like a colorful, out-of-control top.

“Oh, how I adore this shade of pink. It suits me,” she said, stopping to admire her reflection in the mirror on my closet door.

I don’t know what Momma saw in that mirror that delighted her so much, but it sure wasn’t what I saw.

She put her hands on her hips, looked over her shoulder, and waited for me to tell her how beautiful she looked. It was all I could do to reach deep inside myself and push out the words she so desperately wanted to hear. “You look nice, Momma,” I mumbled, embarrassed enough for both of us, then I lowered my eyes and went back to reading my book.

“Don’t be sad, CeeCee. One day you’ll win a beauty pageant, and then you can wear all these beautiful gowns too. I’m saving them for you, darlin’. I promise I am.” She grinned and sashayed out of my room.

Grateful that she’d finally left, I scooted off the bed and closed the door behind her.

Momma started wearing those tattered old prom dresses several days a week. The more she wore them, the more of a spectacle she became in our town. Even the nicest of our neighbors couldn’t stop themselves from standing in their front yards bug-eyed and slack-jawed whenever she’d parade down the sidewalk in a rustle of taffeta. And who could blame them? With a neighbor like Momma, who needed TV?

In school I was the skinny girl who had a crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared lunatic for a mother. Nobody talked to me unless they wanted an answer to a test question, and nobody sat with me at the lunch table—well, nobody except Oscar Wolper, who smelled like dirty socks and bore a shocking resemblance to Mr. Potato Head.

After a while I didn’t pay much attention to my classmates. It didn’t matter what they said about my mother or what kinds of faces they made. I’d just walk in, take my seat, and keep my eyes glued to the blackboard. Besides, I always knew a smile would be waiting for me every Sunday.


For as far back as my memory would take me, I had spent Sunday mornings with our elderly neighbor Mrs. Gertrude Odell. At eight o’clock I’d go down to the kitchen and watch for her porch light to go on; it was our signal that she was ready for me. The minute I’d see that light, I’d run out the door, across the yard, and up the back steps of her little brick house. Always she’d greet me with a smile, still with her thin white hair wound in itty-bitty pin curls, still wearing her nightgown and flowery snap-front robe that was frayed at the cuffs.

“Good morning, honey,” she’d say as I stepped into her kitchen. “It’s a beautiful day that just got more beautiful.”

Whether it was sunny, rainy, or even if a foot of snow had fallen overnight, to Mrs. Odell, every day was a beauty. I think she was just happy to have woken up on the top side of the earth.

Mrs. Odell lived alone. She’d had a husband once, but he died a long time ago. We helped each other a lot: she made my school lunch each morning, and I pulled weeds in her garden and helped her lift things that were heavy.

Our Sunday breakfasts were my favorite thing in the whole world. While I gathered silverware and set our places at the white enamel-top table that sat by the kitchen window, she’d shuffle across the green linoleum floor in a pair of broken-down, grandma-style shoes with mismatched laces and grill up a stack of pancakes. We’d sit down and have ourselves a feast while we listened to a church station on the radio. Mrs. Odell loved choir singing, and she’d tune in early so we wouldn’t miss it. Most times we’d catch the tail end of the day’s sermon, loudly delivered by an angry-sounding preacher. Every week it was like he was giving his listeners a big, finger-pointing reprimand.

One Sunday while licking maple syrup off my fingers, I looked at Mrs. Odell. “Why is that preacher so upset? He always sounds real mad.”

She took a sip of tea and thought for a moment. “Well, now that you mention it, he does sound a little crabby. Maybe he’s tired of reminding people to be kind to each other.”

“Are all preachers crabby?” I said, taking a bite of my pancakes.

Mrs. Odell chuckled. “I don’t know if I’d say they’re all crabby, but I think some do have a tendency to speak a little too forceful at times.”

“Well, what I don’t understand is why people get all dressed up and drive to church so they can sit there and get scolded. Seems to me it’d be a whole lot easier for them to just stay home in their pj’s, eat pancakes, and get yelled at over the radio.”

Mrs. Odell laughed so hard she cried. But I was serious.

On my way home from school the following Friday, I heard the echo of a sharp whack-whack-whack rise above the trees. Up ahead, a man was hammering a sign into the ground in front of a local church. The sign was advertising a weekend fund-raising festival, and printed in bright red letters at the bottom were the words COME JOIN THE FUN—EVERYONE WELCOME. When I arrived home, I made up my mind that I’d go down there on Saturday morning and see for myself what all this church stuff was about.

Before leaving the house the next morning, I put on a pair of old sunglasses and tied a scarf around my head. Thanks to Momma’s antics, even the adults in our town looked at me with something that was a cross between disgust and pity, so I tried to disguise myself whenever I ventured into town.

The festival was a swarm of activity, and I sunk into the shadows of the trees to watch. My first impression was that pies seemed to help people be kind to one another a whole lot better than any mean-talking preacher. In fact, there were more smiles around the bake-sale tables than I had ever seen in one place. Even the most ornery, stern-faced men in our town turned all happy and grinned like fools as they looked over the long tables lined with homemade cookies, pies, and strudels. Even Mr. Krick, the owner of the local hardware store, who was just about as grumpy as a person could be, picked up a pie. Under the watchful eye of a little gray-haired woman who stood behind the table, he held it beneath his nose and breathed in the aroma.

“Ida Mae,” he said with a goofy grin, “you’ve created a masterpiece. This elderberry pie has been blessed by the Good Lord himself. I’ll take it.”

Ida Mae blushed and packed the pie inside a box.

“Now, don’t you worry about that broken latch on your screen door,” Mr. Krick said, suddenly jolly. “I’ll stop by tomorrow morning and get it all fixed up.” He handed Ida Mae a five-dollar bill, told her to keep the change, and disappeared into the crowd.

I made a mental note that if I ever needed help from a man I would make him a pie. I wondered if that’s why my dad didn’t come home much anymore. As far as I knew, Momma never once had baked him a pie.

Beyond the bake-sale tables stood a line of game booths, but I steered clear of those when I saw a group of kids from my school. I watched from a safe distance as they threw balls, knocked over bowling pins, and won all sorts of prizes.

Once I’d seen enough of the festival, I took a shortcut through the grass and walked by the church. The door was wide open, so I climbed the steps and peeked inside.

It was almost dark. The only light there was came from a vibrantly colored stained glass window on the farthest wall. Beyond the rows of polished wood pews sat an altar draped in a cloth of deep red, its surface filled with dozens of burning candles that glowed from inside tiny glass cups.

Careful not to make a sound, I moved down the aisle. Three women were kneeling in the front pew, each one of them wearing a lacy square of fabric on top of her head. The women rubbed long beaded necklaces through their fingers, and one of them rocked back and forth to the rhythm of something I couldn’t hear. I didn’t know what beaded necklaces had to do with praying, but I guessed it was probably some secret code reserved exclusively for women.

For several minutes I watched the scene before me, wondering if a beaded necklace had the power to help my mother. I wondered about it the whole way home.

While walking around the side of the house, I saw Dad’s car parked in the driveway. Just as I opened the back door, I heard Momma’s voice burst through the air. “No. Get out!”

“Damn it, Camille, calm down. We need to talk.”

There was a furious jumble of words, ending with the sound of breaking glass. I ran across the kitchen and hid inside the broom closet. Above me I could hear the shuffling of feet, and then Dad’s words boomed through the house. “Camille, you’ve got to stop this. Now, sit down and—”

Momma screamed, “Don’t come near me. I hate you!”

The slamming of her bedroom door shook the house, and a moment later Dad pounded down the stairs. I stood stock-still in the darkness of the closet, and when he came into the kitchen, I held my breath. When the screen door slapped shut, I pushed open the closet door and peered out the window. As I watched my father get into his car and roar away, I decided to give the praying business a try.

Later that night, while Momma was asleep on the sofa, I searched through a chest of drawers in her bedroom until I found the strand of pearls she kept tucked inside a pink satin pouch. After pulling an old doily from beneath a lamp and grabbing a Christmas candle from a box in the closet, I went into my bedroom and closed the door. I bobby-pinned the doily to my head, lit the candle, and got down on my knees by the window. Though I wasn’t sure exactly what to do, I gazed into the sky and rubbed the pearls between my fingers until they grew nice and warm.

“Hello. My name is Cecelia Rose Honeycutt, and I live at 831 Tulipwood Avenue. The preacher on the radio said if we opened our hearts and asked, we’d be saved. He said it was that simple. So I’m asking, will you please save Momma? Something’s wrong with her mind and it’s getting worse every day. And while you’re at it, will you save me too? There’s nothing wrong with my mind, but I sure could use some help down here. I’ll do anything you say. Thank you. Amen.”

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What People are saying about this

Mary Kay Andrews
"A tender and touching debut. Charming, disarming, sweet as the scent of magnolias on a Southern summer night, SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT is a true delight."--(Mary Kay Andrews, bestselling author of The Fixer-Upper)
Kim Edwards
"CeeCee Honeycutt is a sweet, perceptive girl with a troubled family, and this story of the summer that transforms her life is rich with hard truths and charm. This book unfolds like a lush southern garden, blooming with vivid characters, beauty, and surprises."--(Kim Edwards, bestselling author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter)
Kristin Hannah
"SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT is an absolutely delightful debut novel packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart. From the moment you first step into young CeeCee's unique world, you'll never want to leave."--(Kristin Hannah, bestselling author of True Colors and Winter Garden)
Luanne Rice
"Reading SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT, I barely stopped laughing, even as my heart broke and broke again for CeeCee. She goes through the wringer with Southern grace, but you never forget all she's lost, and you never lose sight of her courage and deep resources. Beth Hoffman has written her heart out in this novel that will clearly be the first of many."--(Luanne Rice, bestselling author of The Geometry of Sisters and The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners)
From the Publisher
“Anyone in need of a southern-girl-power fix will find [Saving CeeCee Honeycutt] engaging. And it offers an invaluable reminder: Even when things look bleak, a few good friends can turn your life around.”

“A peach of a novel.”
Ladies Home Journal

“CeeCee Honeycutt is a sweet, perceptive girl with a troubled family, and this story of the summer that transforms her life is rich with hard truths and charm. This book unfolds like a lush southern garden, blooming with vivid characters, beauty, and surprises.”
Kim Edwards, bestselling author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

“An absolutely delightful debut novel packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart.  From the moment you first step into young CeeCee’s unique world, you'll never want to leave.”
Kristin Hannah, bestselling author of Fly Away

“Reading Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, I barely stopped laughing, even as my heart broke and broke again for CeeCee.  She goes through the wringer with Southern grace, but you never forget all she’s lost, and you never lose sight of her courage and deep resources.  Beth Hoffman has written her heart out in this novel that will clearly be the first of many.”
Luanne Rice, bestselling author of The Lemon Orchard and Little Night

“A tender and touching debut. Charming, disarming, sweet as the scent of magnolias on a Southern summer night, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a true delight.”
Mary Kay Andrews, bestselling author of Ladies' Night

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Saving CeeCee Honeycutt 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 960 reviews.
slosch More than 1 year ago
Got my hands on a pre-pub ARC and I must say, I feel very fortunate indeed to have this early sneak peak. The characters are so real, you close the book wanting more; in fact, I miss them - Aunt Tootie, Oletta, Mrs Odell - they were my friends too. CeeCee is a young girl we can all relate to, with her normal fears and blunders and her good-hearted soul. The writing is phenomenal - don't speed read or you might miss an important piece of the landscape of this delightful novel. For a first-time novelist, Beth Hoffman has hit a homerun right out of the park. She takes you from tears streaming down your face to nervous anticipation, relief and outright joy and then does it again, all in what seems to be the blink of an eye. Be sure to set aside enough time to read the entire book in one sitting - yes, it's that kind of feel-good read. I'll definitely be in line to get a signed hard copy in January and plan to re-read it several times.
M5 More than 1 year ago
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a joy. With a history in literary criticism, I tend to be a tough reader--often digging into post-modern and modernist texts rooted in darkness and frustration (Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, and Virginia Woolf are favorites). Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was a beautiful departure. Ms. Hoffman's novel is playful, insightful, wise, and thought-provoking. She raises issues of motherhood, parenting, mental illness, race, life experience, and true human connection within a truly pleasurable read. There is a well-tuned balance of readability and depth. I am amused by the criticisms here [amazon] of characters who are not fully formed, as I think that is rather purposeful. This novel is not one written to explore the many nuances of the various female characters. Rather, it is about the ideas of influence, insight, and a community of women. Each of the singularly fabulous characters has a life to which we, as readers, are not privvy. We, like CeeCee, see only slivers of lives that have been steeped in a wide variety of influences. In many ways, this is what true human experience is--knowing the parts of people they choose to show us or that we peek at through the bushes without them knowing. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a moving tale about female friendship and admiration--about finding new paths, moving beyond loss, and growing up at all ages. It is one of those books you read and then want to send to each of your best friends. A truly enjoyable and lovely book.
RoseMorris More than 1 year ago
I've never written a review before, but I had to write one for this book! I stayed up half the night to finish it because I couldn't stop reading. The writing is beautiful and the characters are living/breathing people. CeeCee is a very smart little girl living in Ohio with her mentally ill mom and her dad who is rarely home. In fact, she has never really known a true childhood because she's been taking care of her mom for a long time. In order to push away her painful life, CeeCee reads books constantly. The author painted a picture of CeeCee's life that was painful but was also very funny at times. After something very sad happens, CeeCee is sent to live with her aunt in Savannah and that's when her life changes in the most wonderful way! There's a housekeeper/cook named Oletta and the friendship that happens between Oletta and CeeCee is the most touching friendship I've ever read about. And there are lots of women both black and white and young and old who help CeeCee heal and eventually forgive all he things that happened to her in Ohio. As the mother of a very smart 13 year old girl, I really appreciated and admired the author's way of developing CeeCee's character. I laughed and I cried while reading this wonderful book and I slowed down reading when I got to the last three chapters because I didn't want the story to end!!! This is a book that has so much depth and it made me think about all the women I've known from childhood to the present. I wish I could give this book 10 stars! Thank you, Rose Morris
debbi-at-the-beach More than 1 year ago
I read this book aloud to my eighty year old mother who can no longer see to read. We laughed, we cryed, we thoroughly enjoyed this book. Each character was described so well, we could picture each one. Loved this book, waiting for more from this author.
southcoastmom More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and was sorry when it ended. The strong female characters are wise, sweet and quirky and they open CeeCee's eyes up to a whole new world. My absolute favorite is the housekeeper. The descriptions of Savannah and surrounding areas are beautiful and accurate and will make you wish you were there too. A delightful read, I highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found myself wishing I lived in Savannah, Georgia on Gaston St. The characters were lovable, vibrant and so colorful! The cover of the book attracted me and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book. When you miss the characters at the end of the book, then you know it was a great read.
sweetpeaSP More than 1 year ago
Cecelia Rose Honeycutt is a darling 12 year old girl struggling to find her place in a small town in Ohio. CeeCee's mother, the former beauty queen, is slipping into madness, severe mental illness. Her father is never around because he can't cope with his wife's illness. All CeeCee wants is a friend, and to be accepted by her peers but with her mother's peculiar behavior she has become an object of scorn and ridicule. When CeeCee's mother is struck and killed by a truck her great aunt takes CeeCee to her home in Savannah, Georgia. Aunt Tootie is a pure delight, a kind, warm Southern lady, who has only CeeCee's best interests at heart. Thus begins the story of CeeCee's new life in Savannah, surrounded by people who care about her and want only what is best for her. I loved this book. This is tragic at times but heartwarming and insightful, even funny and filled with hope. Wonderful!
SharonChance More than 1 year ago
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.
KimberleyNC More than 1 year ago
I must talk my husband into moving to Savannah! I could not put this book down, yet I did so I wouldn't fly through it in a day. The characters are real, charming, quirky, funny, endearing. I picked this up at the library, and now plan on buying it for my own library, as well as gifts for a few *girl*friends. I absolutely loved this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVED this book.  After reading, I passed it around to all of my friends.  It's a wonderful, touching story that is so well-written that it pulls the reader in  Great southern drama..
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
This was not a favorite of mine.  The story wasn't bad, and was well written with great characters, but it just didn't jump into my heart and capture me. You couldn't help but have empathy for poor CeeCee who seemed like such an intelligent little girl.  There were plenty of great characters who were able to fill the story! I believe that the story flowed smoothly and the characters were well-defined, it just wasn't a story that held my interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a heartwarming book about love, loss, learning and overcoming through wonderful, supportive female relationships . It is an ending we all hope for. Another Steele Magnolias!
queenofpastures More than 1 year ago
I swallowed the publicity hook, line and sinker. If this novel was to be Steel Magnolias meets The Help, I was in. While enjoyable in a not-required-to-think-la-la-land sort of way, that sort of mindless romp was not what I was hoping for. There are some unexpected turns in the plot, which I commend, but the novel, for me, is only milquetoast.
Golden7 More than 1 year ago
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt had me captivated. I loved everything about this book. I felt as though I was right there along with them. Everytime I had to put the book down I could not wait to get back to them. I did not want the book to have and ending. I want to know more about CeeCee and her life. Thank you Beth Hoffman for writng such a heart warming captivating story. I absolutely loved it :-)
mariposaMM More than 1 year ago
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman was the first download to my new Nook. What a good book to initiate my e-reading! My heart broke for CeeCee as she tried to save her mother. She didn't even know that she needed saving herself. When she arrived in Savannah, I could empathize with how those first few days might have felt for her. In our lives, it is rare to have someone love us as our mothers do. CeeCee missed out on the love of her own mother, yet had three wonderful women love her as a daughter. Set mainly in Savannah, some attention to local details was included in the story. I wanted to travel to Savannah just to experience the hospitality and culture there.
CiiCii More than 1 year ago
For years now I have stayed away from fiction after reading too many books with flat characters and uninteresting plots. This book reminded me of why I fell in love with fiction in the first place- For me, it's the romantic ride of settling into your comfortable clothes, finding that most comfortable place to sit with your favorite drink in hand, and your beloved book in your lap; and waiting, just waiting to delve into a world of colorful characters while experiencing emotions ranging from sheer hate and despair to soaring hope, optimism and love. Tears, laughing out loud and soft little girl like giggles accompanying you along the way. This book brought it all back for me and was such a joy to read. It is one I'll likely read again and again. Thank you Beth Hoffman, for helping me to find my love of fiction once again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How many other people in life have had to endure what CeeCee did with a parent's mental/physical problems. A very enjoyable story to read with several strong, entertaining characters to add to the mix. Beth Hoffman's style of writing I can relate to so that made for an even better experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Readable but sappy and not true to life; nothwithstanding its status as fiction, its description of the main character's life is a fairytale; the dynamics of race relations is wholly false, and the last few chapters paint a picture of cotton candy life ?thstanding
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you liked "The Help" style of writing and atmosphere, then you'll like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It's funny, quirky, witty, sad and triumphant! I have it in hard cover, paperback and now on my nook. I have read this a few times and have enjoyed it immensely. I have shared it with many friends who feel the same. It's a shame they didn't make this one in to a movie! Don't miss out on this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is well written It has you laughing even though your heart is breaking for Ceecee
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book very much. Although the story begins with sorrow it soon results in an uplifting life for the main character who is so personable, so very likable, displaying wisdom and courage beyond her age. Many of the characters who begin to surround her, to influence her, to love her, to lighten her life with humor and understanding add much enjoyment to this book which I thought moved right along. A light easy read, but so much to enjoy. I especially liked the author's metaphors, the way she compares so many things in life, ordinary things that are often taken for granted, highlighted by her creativity, the way she cleverly inserts these into the story, adding to the enjoyment of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I find it somewhere between 'The Help' and "The Secret Life of Bees." It is amazing how as women, we can embrace one another or exclude one another...on a whim.
travelbunny More than 1 year ago
language wise the book was easy to read. There was a very good plot here, but I felt the author just didn't develop it enough. At times I actually felt I was reading a book that was perhaps written for younger girls.
Sharon Karasek More than 1 year ago
A book you wish you could read for the first time again