For my first read of 2013 I wanted something short and sweet to finish quickly and help make me feel productive. Yes, mind games. I play them. And while CeeCee definitely fit the bill, I was surprised at the generous amount of emotional levity the novel brings to the table as well.
Cecelia Rose Honeycutt is a lonely 12 year old living in Ohio with her depressed, crazy mother and absentee father. CeeCee’s world changes practically overnight when her mother meets a tragic end to a rather tragic life. Essentially orphaned, CeeCee goes to live with her (great) Aunt Tootie in Savannah, Georgia and her world begins to open up to a slew of amazing women. Along with her aunt, Oletta, Mrs. Odell, and Ms. Goodpepper set about saving CeeCee and showing her all the kindness, loyalty, and kookiness the south has to offer.
Y’all know I am hesitant with any so-called Southern Literature aspiring work. And this one being set in Georgia had my guards up immediately. But I gotta say, my home state really came alive in Hoffman’s pages and I was shocked at the level of authenticity that I found in her magnolia-scented setting. Savannah reads beautifully, but not as over the top as many authors have idealized it over the the years. Instead, reading CeeCee felt just like taking a stroll through Forsyth Park on a humid summer afternoon. The dialogue was also well-done, never seeming overwrought in its attempts to sound southern. I believe CeeCee’s mother even calls her hunny-bunny at one point which was a pet name my mother had for me as well.
Hoffman also writes several southern stereotypes such as the ever-present gaudy gossip with a heart of coal. While often overly recognizable in southern literature, for some reason I really enjoyed this crazy cast because Hoffman allowed me to see the truth in the stereotype and not just the stereotype itself. And the women are just written so sincerely – they are strong, capable, smart, mature women and you immediately get sucked into their sisterhood and know it’s the exact right medicine for healing CeeCee. I saw so many women I’ve known throughout my life in Hoffman’s words. That’s big praise coming from me.
Yes, there are some silly moments in this book, but I smiled through them instead of cringing. CeeCee was a very believable character and her development from beginning to end was endearing, heartbreaking, and genuinely heartfelt. I’m not ashamed to say I teared up at the end feeling almost like a proud mama as Cecelia took that first walk to her new school. This book really reminded me of a good southern movie – something that might star a 12-year-old Sandra Bullock. I have a soft spot for Sandra and now, CeeCee.