Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: Review

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
By Beth Hoffman
Published in 2012
Published by Abacus
ISBN: 978-0-349-00018-3
(Great Britain edition)

Some of us jokingly worry about turning into our parents.  It might sneak up on us one day as we are scolding our kids, or during a conversation with friends all of a sudden something will pop out of our mouths that sounds exactly like them.  The echoes of our parents' influence may be unexpected, but for most of us it wouldn't be unwelcome.  But for CeeCee Honeycutt, recognizing echoes of her mother within herself is her worst nightmare, and something which has haunted her every day since she read in a book that psychosis may be inherited.

CeeCee has grown up as the sole caretaker for her irretrievably mentally ill mother.  Her father, unable to face up to the realities of his marriage, has retreated into his work and is barely ever home, leaving CeeCee to bear the brunt of her mother’s unstable moods and wild antics.  Old before her time and robbed of her childhood and all semblance of normality, CeeCee turns to her beloved books and her elderly neighbor, Mrs Odell, for solace and a place of respite.  But when she is twelve years old, her already chaotic world is thrown into further disarray when her mother makes a dramatic exit from her life at the beginning of the summer holidays.

As a result, CeeCee is uprooted from all she has ever known and whisked away to Savannah, Georgia, by her Great Aunt Tootie.  CeeCee's new world could not be more different from her old life.  She has been transplanted into the warm, pillowy comfortable place dominated by a cast of fabulous female characters.  It is within this world that CeeCee starts her slow journey towards recovery from the damage done by her childhood and learns the simple joys of friendship and stability.  

Although CeeCee's life with her mother reads as a gritty portrayal of what it is like to live with a mentally unbalanced parental figure, her life in Georgia reads more like a fairy tale, a young girl's fantasy escape story writ large.  Life in 1970s Georgia isn't perfect, and the racial issues of the time do make an appearance, but more as side concerns to the main storyline.  While some may find this optimistic turn of events to be problematically unrealistic, I personally found it fitting.  After the brutality of CeeCee's life in Ohio, the magic of Savannah was welcome relief and an utterly charming place within which to spend some time.  This novel achieves a balanced mix of opening pathways into conversations about the serious issue of mental illness while at the same time allowing for a thoroughly enjoyable read. 


  1. I've heard of this novel before, but have never read a review of it. Thanks!

    Sounds like a wonderful read.

  2. Ah yes - I didn't think of the largely fairy tale life in Savannah as being necessary to counterbalance CeeCee's life in Ohio. Excellent point.