The other night I decided to go back through the library’s list of available book discussion kits to see if there were any other books I thought I might be of interest to my book club. I was able to add a few more books to the list. Two of those books are The Saving of CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman and Anna Jean Mayhew’s The Dry Grass of Autumn.
I just finished reading Saving of CeeCee Honeycutt and I have to say this book grabbed and held me from the very start. I don’t know if I can exactly put my finger on what drew me so powerfully into this book. The setting begins in the early 1960s in Ohio when twelve-year old CeeCee Honeycutt is forced to care for her mentally disabled mother who believes she is still the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. CeeCee’s never had a friend and is ostracized by peers her age because of her mother’s bizarre behavior. Her mother dresses in formal wear she’s bought at the local Goodwill and parades through the streets of their small town reliving her beauty queen days. CeeCee has a father who works out of town and stays away from home as much as possible leaving CeeCee alone to deal with her mother. CeeCee’s only protector is her aging neighbor, Mrs. Odell who loves and cares for CeeCee as though she were one of her grandchildren. After CeeCee’s mother dies in a tragic accident, she is sent to live with her mother’s widowed, childless great-aunt in Savannah, Georgia.
I felt somewhat of a kindred spirit with CeeCee when she lived with the despair of a mentally ill mother and an absentee father. Why I felt this way, I can’t really say because I had what I’ve always referred to as an “Ozzie and Harriet” type of upbringing, that is until my dad died when I was sixteen. I think my mom was just so overwhelmed being a widow at forty-two with four children that she didn’t have anything left to give to me.
But the story blooms when CeeCee reaches the lush grounds of Savannah and for the first time in her life, she has a girlfriend, Aunt Tooties’ negro housekeeper, Oletta. CeeCee feels unconditionally loved by the women who surround her who include her in shenanigans in the neighborhood. I felt as though the story told in Ohio was in black and white, but just as when Dorothy landed in Oz, in a world of brilliant color, the story transformed the black and white into the wonderful world of color when CeeCee reached Savannah.
If anyone ever wondered if “Southern” was more than just a phrase, this novel makes a believer out of you. The characters are just as colorful as the descriptions of the gardens and the fragrance of their words just as beautiful. Here are just a few gems from the book:
“It’s what we believe about ourselves that determines how other see us”.
“Oysters are a lot like women. It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty”.
“Don’t go wastin’ all them bright tomorrows you ain’t even seen by hangin’ on to what happened yesterday. Let go, child. Just breathe out and let go”.
“It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty”.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on the next book, then I’m done and it will be down to which discussion book kits are available in a few weeks, but this one is a top contender.
Please don’t judge this book based on my total inability to write an engaging book review because this book is just lovely. I think it’s my pick.