March 17, 2012

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Release Date: October 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 306 pages
Source & Format: Purchased; Paperback

Summary (from Amazon)
When Camille Sugarbaker Honeycutt, the pretty but crazy 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen, dies suddenly, her twelve-year-old daughter CeeCee has barely a hope left in the world. To her rescue arrives Great Aunt Tootie in the most magnificent car CeeCee has ever seen, and she is whisked away to the storybook city of Savannah. For some flowers, Aunt Tootie holds, are born to bloom only south of the Mason-Dixon line and soon, among the sweet scent of magnolias and the loving warmth of Tootie and her colourful collection of friends, it looks as though CeeCee has arrived in paradise. But when a darker side to the Southern dream threatens this delicate, newfound happiness, Aunt Tootie and her friends must rally to CeeCee's aid.

Thoughts on Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
The Goodreads summary of this book describes it as "Steel Magnolias" meets "The Help." Now, let me just throw this out there: those are some mighty big comparisons. The Help is one of my favorite books, and while I don't love Steel Magnolias with the same passion, it's a really funny movie. Here is how that description affected my expectations: Southern. Funny. Moving. Women. And here's how this book didn't really live up to my expectations.

Southern. Yes, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was certainly Southern. Set in Savannah, Georgia, this book has plenty of Southern ladies doing their best to keep the stereotype of the crazy ladies down South alive and kicking. It's not that I didn't appreciate some of the books Southerness. It's just that I couldn't connect to it because it didn't feel 100% authentic.

Funny. This book really wasn't that funny. Yes, there were a few funny scenes. However, the majority of the book was supposed to be deep and meaningful. It was kind of hard to work funny in (aside from the general comedy that tends to exist in a "Southern" novel) when so much of the book was meant to But, again, the hype didn't quite like up to the delivery.

Moving. Here's where I had my biggest problem. The book felt incredibly episodic. A really good book should flow. The story should evolve and progress naturally across the page. In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, it feels more like this: Moment. Lesson. Moment. Lesson. Moment. Lesson... Well, you get the idea. CeeCee learns several "Big Lessons" from the wise and loving black cook. I guess my problem with the whole thing was that I don't like characters whose only role is to deliver "wisdom" and "lessons."   There were some moments where Hoffman had the opportunity for real depth. For something important to be communicated. But it felt too forced and artificial. It might have been meant to be more like a series of vignettes, but I think that was the author's intention.

Women. The book is largely focuses on women - both young and old. And while I love a good story about female friendship, many of the characters fell flat. They filled a role, but little else. No one the characters seemed real to me, which is a huge shortcoming in a book that deals with pretty serious issues (like mental illness and racial tension). 

I don't want to imply I hated this book, and I can see why it's pretty popular. But, honestly, it just didn't git the right notes for me. If you promise me The Help, you better deliver. And this book definitely didn't. 

So Quotable
"Mrs. Odell once told me that forgiveness had a whole lot more to do with the person doing the forgiving than it did with the person in need of forgiveness. She said holding on to hurt and anger made about as much sense as hitting your head with a hammer and expecting the other person to get a headache."

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