Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom
Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.
In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.
Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, "packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart." It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I was born on an elevator during a snowstorm, a story my father often enjoyed telling whenever the opportunity arose. For the first five years of my life, I lived (along with my mom, dad, and older brother) on my grandparents’ farm in northern Ohio. It was a rural area, and other than a few tolerant garden toads, a highly social chicken, and Midnight, our family dog, there wasn’t anyone to play with. So I created imaginary friends. I’d draw pictures of them and build them homes out of shoeboxes—replete with interiors furnished by pictures I’d cut from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. Eventually I wrote stories about my friends, giving them interesting names and complex lives.
From earliest memory, there were two things I loved above all else: writing and painting. I wrote my first short story when I was eleven and sold my first painting at the age of fourteen. I believed the sale of the painting was a sign of what direction I should take in life. So I chose a career in art that eventually segued into interior design, but I still kept writing and dreaming of becoming a novelist. Life sent me on many creative journeys and I ultimately landed in Cincinnati, Ohio, becoming the president and co-owner of an interior design studio.
Years went by, long hours and hard work brought success, and with it came the inevitable stresses of business ownership. During the busiest year of my professional life, I nearly died from the same infection that took puppeteer Jim Henson’s life—group A streptococcal infection that resulted in septic shock. After finally being discharged from the hospital, I returned home to convalesce. I spent weeks reevaluating my life—the good, the bad, and the downright painful. As I struggled to regain my health and find spiritual ballast, my dream of writing a novel resurfaced. But no matter how I looked at it, there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to fulfill the demands of my career and write a novel. So I let the dream go.
Then, on a snowy morning in January of 2004, a complete stranger said something to me. And like an unexpected gust of fresh air, his words blew the door wide open. In an eye-blink I knew if I were to write a novel, it had to be now or never. I chose now. I sold my portion of the design business, and after a month of sleeping and meditating and realigning my energies, I plunked down at my computer. Day after day my fingers blazed over the keyboard, and I didn’t come up for air until I typed “The End” nearly four years later.
If there’s a moral to my story, it’s this: take a chance, embrace your dreams, forgive, let go, move on. And if life gives you a big smackdown, there’s a reason—and it just might lead toward your own little piece of the rainbow.
Oh, and there’s one more thing: be mindful of the words of strangers.REVIEW:
Cecelia Honeycutt; CeeCee, is a delightful tween! She is a good student and one can't even imagine where she gets her spirit from! CeeCee is a delight to read about. She lives in Willoughby, Ohio, in 1967, where she is, however, a lonely young lady who finds that reading is her best friend. She has no friends as much as she'd like to because the kids at school make fun of her. How can that be from the sweet kid I described? In order to answer that, let's meet her mother.
Camille Sugarbaker Honeycutt was a 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen and following her marriage, "the Queen" began to live up north with her husband It was there, in a small town in Ohio, that CeeCee Honeycutt grew up. Camille's life, however, went down hill fast once she left the south. CeeCee’s mother was mentally ill and perhaps what we might call a manic-depressive.
CeeCee doesn't know a name for how her mom acts, she only knows that her mother’s moods change very quickly and that is the reason her father, a machine tools salesman, is away for weeks often times. This, of course, means that CeeCee must care for her mom because most of the time, Camille is unable to care for herself, let alone her daughter. Mrs. Gertrude Odell, their 80 year old neighbor, seems to be the only one to care about, or for, poor CeeCee. She treats CeeCee like a grandchild but is really too old to do much else.
Being that Vidalia Onion Queen was obviously Camille's most important thing and continued to play in her mind as she tried to recapture those moments. She would persistently go to the Goodwill Store and get old gowns of all types and put them on with a tiara on her head quite often. NOW, do you understand why CeeCee is so lonely and the kids make fun or her?
The last time "the Queen" performed in her costume with her usual, out front of the house to blow kisses to passers-by, she stumbled, or perhaps took a step on purpose, in front of a truck. CeeCee was never sure. The day after her mother's funeral, CeeCee thought a lot about her predicament. No mother, an absent father who no doubt would find someone else soon and CeeCee would be left alone. As she sat thinking of what to do, a long red convertible pulled into the drive and out stepped Tootie Caldwell, CeeCee's great-aunt. She had not seen CeeCee since she was a baby and yet, she came to take her back to Savannah, Georgia to raise her as normally as she could and so CeeCee's father, recognizing an answer to one of his problems, agreed.
In Savannah, CeeCee is surrounded by caring women from Aunt Tootie to Oletta Jones and Violene Hobbs and Miz Goodpepper. What a change this is for CeeCee! From nobody to all these strong women caring about her. These women play the important part of making sure that CeeCee gets through thinking she is going to wind up like her mother. These are strong, well-developed characters who make for an interesting, not a Pollyanna, time for CeeCee in Savannah. Although there are some tough times and topics in the book, this really is a very sweet and fun read. It is entertaining and from the praise it is getting, I believe many people will be meeting CeeCee and loving her, too!
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