The finalist list for the 2011 SIBA book Awards has been released. The complete list can be found here: http://www.sibaweb.com/
While we applaud all the finalists- because they are all deserving, we can’t help but have a little extra excitement for one of our personal favorites in the Fiction category : Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
When Deb Lewis at Penguin first sent me an advance copy for review I was immediately intrigued. The story of young CeeCee was a compelling one, and her heart-rending struggles in the beginning portions of the book would make anyone sympathetic towards her- but it was later, as CeeCee’s Aunt Tootie comes into the picture that I truly fell in love with the story.
There are so many wonderfully unique and interesting female figures in this book that it is hard to pick a favorite. My guess is that you’ll fall in love with each of them just a little bit. I know I did. The following is the text from my original review. My feelings have only strengthened as time has passed.
One of the joys of being a bookseller is to get a chance to read new books before they are generally available. When we receive shipments of these advance copies from publishers and sometimes the authors themselves, it’s a little like Christmas morning or our birthday. For one- they are gifts (at least we look at them that way). Secondly, they sometimes include something we heard about and badly wanted. Other times we find they include a wonderful surprise- one that we were unaware of, but simply fall in love with. Receiving Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was my wonderful surprise.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt chronicles the young and turbulent life of the title character, Cecelia Honeycutt. She is an exceptionally bright and sweet young girl who is forced to grow up with a mostly absent father and a mother who is increasingly absent from reality. While her mother bemoans her exile north, to Ohio, away from her beloved Georgia and escapes from reality by reliving her beauty-queen glory days, CeeCee is left to her own devices. CeeCee’s only salvation during her mother’s mental decline is an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Odell and her books.
By the time CeeCee turns twelve, her mother (and she, by relation) have become the joke of the town. When her mother dies in a tragic accident at the beginning of that summer, the young girl has terribly mixed feelings. While she is sad over her mother’s death, she is also relieved at no longer having to carry the burden of both watching over her as well as having to endure the embarrassment and ridicule caused by her mother’s antics. She is also well aware that now her only parent is a father who has spent the better part of her life ignoring her. Even that slim thread of security is severed when her father announces he is sending her away to live with someone she has never met- her great-aunt in Savannah, Georgia.
Initially resistant to the idea of leaving everything she has ever know- most especially her beloved neighbor Mrs. Odell- CeeCee soon sees her exodus south as a new start. By the time CeeCee piles into her Aunt Tootie’s flashy Packard convertible with her clothes and her collection of books, she is ready to start the next chapter in her (as Mrs. Odell puts it) “life book”.
Upon arrival in Savannah, CeeCee is introduced to a different kind of life and a new way of looking at things. For a child who has spent the majority of her life virtually motherless, CeeCee suddenly finds herself surrounded by surrogate mother figures. From her effervescent Aunt Tootie, to the wise and loving housekeeper Oletta, and a colorful cast of others who populate CeeCee’s new life, she learns and heals, as well as discovering that a wonderful life can be found outside of a book as well as between the pages of one.
Set in Savannah in the 1960’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt touches on some of the racial issues of that time, but it does so in a wonderfully deft way. These issues are seen from CeeCee’s perspective (as is the entirety of the book) but they are given both a wide and deeply personal scope. Although those issues are not a large theme throughout, they are shown in a wonderfully poignant way that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. More than anything, this book is a story of mothers and daughters… of all kinds. Also one of love, faith, friendship and forgiveness -in all its forms.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will be available in January 2010 from Penguin Books and I highly recommend that you put it on your winter reading wish list. Once you find yourself among it’s pages you will be transported, along with CeeCee, to the warm breezes of Savannah –laughing and crying with them along the way. When the journey comes to the end, you will be sad to leave them behind and wish you could stay forever.
The winners of the 2011 SIBA Book Awards will be announced in July, but in our little corner of the world, Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is already our Fiction Book of the Year.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this wonderful book, we urge you to run out to your nearest bookstore and get a copy. Soon you’ll understand why we fell in love with it. Once you do, please let Beth know how much you enjoyed it. She’ll be tickled especially since she’s hard at work on her next book.
Beth Hoffman’s Website : http://bethhoffman.net/