Monday, March 4, 2013
Review #16: Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman
Cee Cee is twelve when she is sent to live with her great aunt Tallulah (Tootie) Caldwell. Her mother is mercifully killed by an ice-cream truck after fighting years of mental illness, and her father drifts in and out of life, and is unable to care for Cee Cee. In swoops Aunt Tootie to save the day and whisk her down to Savannah.
With the help of Oletta, Tootie's housekeeper, Thelma Rae, the wacky, slightly Miss Havisham-meets-Marilyn Monroe-ish next door neighbor, and a whole cast of typical Southern characters, Tootie helps Cee Cee come out of her shell and adapt to life in a Southern small town. The book is set in the early 1960s, and Hoffman touches on the rampant racism, describing it through a child's confused eyes. There is one scene in particular that stands out, where Cee Cee talks Oletta and her sister in to taking her to the beach. There, they are confronted and attacked by a white man, and Oletta and her sister fight back, something that was not done in the 1960s South. Cee Cee understands that she has to keep what happened absolutely secret - even from Aunt Tootie - although she doesn't quite understand why.
I read a handful of reviews on this book, and several of them remarked that Hoffman didn't delve deeply enough into the race issue or Cee Cee's fears of inheriting her mother's mental illness. And it's true - Hoffman could have gone darker with this story. But the book is told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old, and I feel like she hit the exact right notes. It felt like a twelve-year-old - albeit one with an excellent vocabulary - was telling me her story, and I wanted to gather Cee Cee up, hug the sadness and fear right out of her, and love her.