By: Beth Hoffman
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Historical Fiction
CeeCee Honeycutt has never really known a normal life. Most of her childhood has been spent taking care of her mentally ill mother, the town joke. When tragedy rudely interrupts CeeCee’s life, her eccentric great-aunt Tootie shows up and sweeps her away to Savannah, Georgia. There, CeeCee discovers a world rich with lively with strong, intelligent, caring women and through them, works toward acceptance of herself, her place in Savannah, and her mother.
I really enjoyed this novel. CeeCee is an endearing character whose bookworm habits and twisted sense of humor reminded me of myself. Aunt Tootie is kind and a wonderful role model to the blossoming girl, encouraging her to find her passion, her fire, and never let it go out. Oletta, the African-American servant, comes off a bit “mammy-ish” in places, but the details surrounding her character take her above the stereotype. The multitude of southern ladies, both black and white, that adorn this story are all lovely, funny, and diverse, each one standing out in her own right. From the Buddhist Miz Goodpepper to Oletta’s wild Aunt Sapphire, each woman makes a powerful impact on young CeeCee.
Hoffman’s writing is wonderful. The characters feel alive and the beautiful scenery easy to imagine. The story can take a sad turn on one page and make you laugh out loud with the next. Her characters are capable of many humorous antics such as flinging slugs into a rude neighbor’s yard or chronicling the travels of a brassiere. However, Hoffman also captures the seriousness of racism in the Georgia of the 1960s, when this novel takes place.
The only flaw I found with this New York Times Bestseller is that two characters that seem to be important when they are briefly introduced, but one dies off and we never hear about the other one again. CeeCee holds onto these women as special people in her life, but she only ever meets them once. I felt that was something that could have been done differently. While I liked the characters, I felt that they should have either had more time in the story line, or not been introduced at all.
Overall, this is a great first novel for Beth Hoffman. Lively characters and a great mix of humor, sadness and historical reality make this a book worthy of more than one read. I look forward to Hoffman’s next effort.