Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

4.3 966
by Beth Hoffman
     
 

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Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom.

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Overview


Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom.

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:
9781594134425
Publisher:
Gale Group
Publication date:
10/26/2010
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
467
Sales rank:
1,219,175
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

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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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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
"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

"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."
-Library Journal

"'Welcome to my world, baby girl' (to paraphrase Fannie Flagg's title) is what came to my mind on meeting the narrator of Beth Hoffman's delightful debut, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Twelve-year-old CeeCee is a survivor. Alone too much, and with too much responsibility because of her psychotic mother, CeeCee is old beyond her years. When her mother dies, her mostly absent father sends her south from Ohio to Savannah under the care of her never-before-seen Great Aunt Tootie. The reader is introduced to a wide assortment of Southern women, each of whom plays a role in CeeCee's healing and coming to terms with her life. Each character also helps paint a detailed picture of the dichotomy between the 'old South' with its decaying gentry, and the changing South, where black and white are more than servant/mistress and white gloves are being exchanged for jeans and flip-flops. This lovely novel has earned the status of 'LizPick' even before it's published."
-Publishers Weekly, "Galley Talk" by Liz Murphy, the Learned Owl Book Show, Hudson, Ohio

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