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Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

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"Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille - the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town - a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when tragedy strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell." "In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that ...

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Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

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Overview

"Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille - the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town - a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when tragedy strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell." "In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who skinny-dips in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapon, 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." Beth Hoffman's debut hums with wacky humor and down-home heart. It explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.

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Editorial Reviews

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

  • ISBN-13: 9781410422750
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 1/12/2010
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 471
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Beth Hoffman

Beth Hoffman was the president and owner of a major design studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. She sold her business to pursue writing full time. Beth lives in northern Kentucky with her husband and two very smart cats, in a beautiful historic home that she completely renovated.

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Read an Excerpt

Featured Excerpt in the Penguin iPhone App

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 milkshake.

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 shoeboxes 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 hear only 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 960 )
Rating Distribution

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(561)

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(109)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 963 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Brings tears to your soul and then the sunshine dries them right up

    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.

    26 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    lush, lovely, mischievous, and deep

    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.

    23 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    The best in southern fiction!

    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

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    ?

    Many thanks to the many big mouth plot spoilers, including the ones who revealed the ending of the book, now we dont have to buy the book. You saved us the cost of the book. When will you rude ppl ever learn that the rest of us just might want to read the book for ourselves and not have you book report it for us?????? Just stop with the plot spoilers. State if u liked it or not, dont rewrite the danged book, or give a detailed synopsis.

    14 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Fantastic!

    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.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    WONDERFUL!

    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!

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A sweet Southern story of growing up and coming home.

    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.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    An excellent, engaging read!

    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!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    just o.k.

    in the wake of reading "the help" this book lacked any kind of depth. it was pleasant enough to read, and very predictable. it is the type of book i would recommend for someone sitting in an airport, waiting for an appointment or when you just want something light to read.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2012

    Loved the details

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Awesome read

    A book you wish you could read for the first time again

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2010

    a beautiful story for girls at heart

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    LOVED this book.  After reading, I passed it around to all of my

    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..

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This was not a favorite of mine.  The story wasn't bad, and was

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Southern reader

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2012

    A Lovely Story

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2011

    Not so much.

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    I absolutely loved this book

    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 :-)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2010

    Amazing book

    This book was so heartwarming. It has joined my list of my all time favorite books!! A must read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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