Dare I say it? Could Saving CeeCee Honeycutt be one of my most favorite books of all time? Since I gave it a special place on my favorite bookshelf and plan on reading it again and again, I guess it’s safe to say that yes, this book has earned a spot in Jessica Sinn’s top ten most favorite books. It’s been while since I’ve claimed an inductee, so this is a pretty major event for Chick Lit Café!
It’s actually kind of funny how I stumbled across this book. While shopping at Barnes & Noble for a Father’s Day gift, I swore that I wouldn’t buy myself another book. I was doing really good up until I reached the checkout aisle and noticed Saving CeeCee Honeycutt on top of the impulse buy table. The hummingbird on the cover caught my eye, so I gave in and read the dustcover. And wouldn’t you know, it’s like the book was custom made just for me. It has all the elements I look for in a women’s fiction novel: A haunted protagonist, female bonding, self-discovery and a small Southern town. This was one impulse buy that I will never regret!
Now on to the hard part. I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers would agree that it’s not easy writing a review about a favorite book. There’s so much I want to say, but how do I even begin? I guess I’ll try to give it a shot without getting too carried away. Here’s how it all goes down:
Set in Savannah Georgia in the 1960s, the story revolves around CeeCee Honeycutt, whose life has been shaped by her traumatic childhood with a psychotic mother and absentee father. A former Southern beauty queen, her mother spent her days prancing around the front yard in thrift store prom dresses. Unable to deal with his crazy wife, CeeCee’s dad constantly skips town on “business trips,” leaving her alone to deal with the tantrums and kitchen fires.
Shunned by the neighborhood kids, she longs for a best girlfriend more than anything in the world. To shut out her grim reality, she devours books – especially Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew mysteries.
When tragedy strikes, CeeCee’s great aunt Tootie scoops her up in her Packard Victoria convertible and whisks her off to Savannah, Georgia. Soon she finds herself completely enveloped in a colorful world of lush gardens, historic mansions and Southern hospitality.
But despite her new posh surroundings and blossoming circle of friends, CeeCee’s life isn’t all sweet tea and roses. She has a lot of issues bubbling under the surface that can’t be ignored. Why can’t she cry over her mother’s untimely death? And will she ever be able to forgive her father? With some help from her aunt Tootie, and a bevy of eccentric Southern ladies, she slowly learns how to confront her past.
Like Dorothy entering the Land of Oz, CeeCee meets fascinating new friends along her journey – from a mysterious neighbor who takes moonlit baths in her garden, to a promiscuous town gossip, to a voyeuristic peacock! But of all the characters, my favorite is Aunt Tootie’s longtime housemaid, Oletta Jones. Similar to Mabel in The Help, she’s haunted by the death of her only child and finds a renewed sense of joy by befriending young CeeCee. As their friendship deepens with every chapter, it becomes very clear they both were destined to find each other. I got really choked up when I read this exchange between Oletta and CeeCee while they were skinny dipping in a neighbor’s pool:
Over and over I practiced saying the words in my mind: I love you, Oletta. I love you. But when I gathered the courage to say them out loud, the words that popped out were, “Oletta, if you and I had met when we were both kids, would you have liked me?”
That question seemed to surprise her as much as it did me. Then in the darkness I could see her eyes crinkle up when she smiled. “Oh, yes, I’da like you just fine, but I’d probably been a little scared of you too.”
“Because you’re so smart and pretty. Sometimes them two things in one person can mean a whole lot of trouble.”
Call me a sap, but this moment really melted my heart. How I wish I could spend a day with these two kindred spirits eating beaten biscuits and chatting about Nancy Drew!
What I really love about this book is how these women surrounded little CeeCee like a warm hug and lifted her out of the darkness. They cared for her when she was hurting. They listened to her when she unleashed her anxieties. They made her feel wanted after years of neglect. And best of all – they gave her the one thing she always wanted, true friendship. We should all be so lucky to have a strong woman like Oletta or Aunt Tootie in our corner. There’s something very special about a true friend who wholeheartedly wants for your happiness – someone who will go above and beyond to make sure everything is okay.
Overall Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is an exceptional debut. This is a book from the heart, full of strong female voices and bits of wisdom. Beth Howard brilliantly tells the story through the innocent eyes of a 12-year-old girl, taking readers on a mesmerizing journey of self-discovery. Whatever you do, don’t rush through this book. Like a great vacation, you want to savor each and every moment before it’s over! Fans of Kathryn Stockett, Cassandra King, Rebecca Wells and Billie Letts are sure to be impressed.