February 14, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
2010 Pamela Dorman Books
Finished on 2/10/10
Rating: 2.5/5 (Average)

Product Description

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

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 Camille is hit by a truck and killed, 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 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.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, "packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart." It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.

Bookreporter.com's reviewer gave this debut novel five stars on Amazon. Lesa (of Lesa's Book Critiques) and Kathy (of Bermudaonion) also gave Saving CeeCee Honeycutt five stars. Kay (of My Random Acts of Reading) says it's one of the best books she's ever read. These are all people whose opinions I respect. (Click on the links to read their reviews.)

So what's my problem? Why didn't I fall in love with this new release as so many others have? Maybe, since it's been compared to The Help and The Secret Life of Bees, I was expecting another deep, thought-provoking read full of realistic and memorable characters. Instead, Hoffman's characters are one-dimensional stereotypes. The narrative lacks tension and there were far too many sugary scenes for my taste. Honestly, I felt the writing was simplistic and, if not for some of the language (and one particularly racy scene), I would have thought it was written for young readers (a la The Penderwicks).

While many will compare Hoffman's coming-of-age novel to The Help, The Secret Life of Bees and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the only comparison I see is that they're all set in the South. If asked what I would compare it to, the first book that comes to my mind is A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. I loved Fried Green Tomatoes and Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, but A Redbird Christmas is a sentimental, saccharine, over-wrought tale all too obviously intended to tug at your heartstrings. Of course many readers loved that book, so maybe I'm just not cut out to read Southern feel-good stories.

Final thoughts: Grab the book at your local library. If you love it, head to your nearest bookstore and buy a copy for a reread. If you're disappointed, you've saved enough to buy a copy of The Postmistress. From what I hear, it's "The Help" of 2010. Hmmm.


  1. Anonymous2:33 PM

    Les, isn't it funny how certain books just speak to us individually and then don't to others? :-)

    I think sometimes it's just the right book for the right person at the right time. And otherwise not. Sorry you didn't care for this one, but we have connected often enough on things for me to know that we will again. I'm looking forward to reading The Postmistress, by the way. I've heard a lot about it as well.

  2. Les...sorry this did not WOW you. I loved it!

    BTW...Congrats on your 4 year Blogiversary!

  3. LOL! I loved your review. Maybe I shouldn't have signed up to try to win CeeCee in your blogiversary drawing. Oh, well! I've got a copy of The Postmistress that I plan to read, soon. Glad to hear it's getting rave reviews.

  4. THANK YOU!! Now I don't feel so bad. I could have written this review (including your thoughts on Redbird Christmas). I'm nearly finished with CeeCee and have been wondering what is wrong with me that I don't love it as everyone else seems to.

  5. Good to get a counterpoint to the lovefest. I always get hesitant about a book when everyone loves it--sometimes I refuse to even pick it up. BTW--I liked The Postmistress but it is definitely not The Help of 2010.

  6. EEK! I'm thinking I will probably fall in your camp after reading your comments. I'm not going to rush to get it now. Thank you so much for your honesty!

  7. Sorry for the delay in responding to your comments. I was tied up with jury duty last week and was mentally exhausted by end of the day.

    Kay - I agree with you completely. Who knows how I would've reacted to this book had I waited to read it later this year. Or prior to hearing it being compared to The Help. I'm a firm believer in timing. This one just happened to miss it's mark.

    Diane - You know, I'm glad so many people loved it. I would feel terrible for any new author to have EVERYONE dislike their book.

    Thanks for the blogiversary congrats. The years sure have flown quickly!

    Nancy - LOL! I'm glad you enjoyed the review. And lucky you to get a copy of The Postmistress!!! I really want to read that one soon. Maybe I should wait until all the hype dies down, though.

    Jan - You're welcome! It's always nice to have someone affirm your opinion, isn't it? Do you have a blog? Just curious how you found me.

    Lisa - Oh, dear. Not The Help of 2010, eh? But a good read? I'll have to check out your review. At least I can go into the book with an open mind, right?

    Joy - You crack me up! :) But hey, you may love it. I know we haven't always clicked on the same books. Let me know if you give it a try.

  8. And that should read, "miss its mark" not "miss it's mark." Sigh.

  9. Okay, I've come back to reread your thoughts after having read the book and posting my thoughts. My conclusion is that this post is the epitome of "DITTO!" :)

    (Can there be an epitome of a word? Well, if not - there is now.)

    I didn't remember reading your thoughts prior to now, but apparently I did. (see above) And, it appears that my hunch was spot on.

  10. Joy - Yep, we were definitely in agreement on this one, weren't we?! :)

  11. Oh my goodness, how did I remember your thoughts so poorly? I have not heard much negative thought about CeeCee, but I can easily imagine saccharine situations and characters. I'll let you know my thoughts, which I'm sure will parallel yours, when I read it.

    1. I hope I haven't swayed your future opinion of the book! ;)


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