This is what comfort Southern-lit is all about: eccentric characters, sense of community, and food. It’s no wonder that half-way through this book I finally ordered the Screen Doors and Sweet Tea cookbook, which had been on my wish-list for ages. Unfortunately, it didn’t include the cinnamon buns of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I swear I could smell them…
CeeCee is twelve and has always lived in Ohio with her absent father and mentally-ill mother. CeeCee has leaned to cope alone with her mother’s extreme mood-swings and delusions (it’s 1967, but she believes it’s still 1951, when she was crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia). When tragedy strikes, CeeCee is taken in by her mother’s Aunt, who whisks her off to Savannah, Georgia.
This is the promise of a new life: the care of Aunt Tootie, the comfort food of black housekeeper Oletta and the incredible stories of an array of unusual neighbors. But most of all, it’s the attention and love of them all that make CeeCee feel safe for the first time in her young life.
Not a lot happens, but the story manages to often be hilarious or touching. It follows in the tradition of The Secret Life of Bees, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and The Help, so although it’s set in 60s in the American South, and there are some hints of social unrest, the story doesn’t tackle head-on any of the ugliness of that period.
Instead, the story centers on female friendships (always a popular topic in Southern lit) and CeeCee’s coming of age through the support of her new community. Since the focus is on piecing together this girl’s confidence, and because CeeCee has reasons to be naïve about racism, the smoothing over of the not-so-nice issues doesn’t feel like a cop-out.
The only part of the story that didn’t feel just at it should be was Savannah’s role. The sense of place is there, but not as strongly as I’d wish – it’s such a wonderful city that it deserves to be a character in its own right. I don’t say this very often, but I wish there were more descriptions in Saving CeeCee Hioneycutt (disclaimer: I read Southern-lit mostly to get back a bit of the memories of my time living below the Maxon-Dixie line).
Still, it’s a very sweet book, the end ties up nicely and there’s a satisfying “Southern” feel to it.
(Springtime in Savannah, Georgia – photo credit)
Read for the Southern Literature Challenge 2012.
Other thoughts: She is too fond of books, Books and Movies, Redlady’s Reading Room, Lesa’s Book Critiques, Devourer of Books, S. Krishna’s Books, SmallWorld Reads, Books in the City, write meg!, Word Bird, Rundpinne, Beth Fish Reads, The Literate Mother, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell, Steph Su Reads, Literate Housewife, Reading on a Rainy Day, Book Line and Sinker, Geeky Bloggers Book Blog, Life in the Thumb, Stacy’s Books, Reviews by Lola, Chocolate & Croissants, Prairie Horizons, Maggie Reads, Just Books, Novels Now, Purple Sage and Scorpions (yours?)