Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

When her crazed mother has embarrassed her again by prancing in public in her red heels and Miss Vidalia pageant dress and crown, twelve-year-old Cecelia wishes her mother would die.  And, suddenly, she does – hit by a truck.  With this tragedy, Beth Hoffman begins a new “Life Chapter” for her young heroine in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt – a Southern flavored novel that is more Steel Magnolias than The Help.

CeeCee’s saviours are a slew of old Southern Belles, led by her wealthy great Aunt Tootie, whose life passion is saving old Southern mansions; Oletta Jones, Tootie’s wise housekeeper and cook; assorted Georgia peaches, including the eccentric Miz Goodpepper, looking for nirvana; the scandalous Violene Hobbs, who cavorts with the local policeman; and Mrs. Odell, CeeCee’s elderly Ohio neighbor.  Fulfilling her mother’s dream to return home to the South, CeeCee leaves Ohio after her mother’s death, with her traveling salesman father’s blessing, to live in luxury in Savannah with her mother’s long-lost relatives.  Hoffman redeems the formula plot with likeable characters and dialogue that will make you laugh out loud – or cry.

CeeCee’s summer is a respite not only from her tortured life as the daughter of the town fool, but also from her life as her mother’s caretaker.  She reads voraciously to escape her real life, and observes the world from a distance.  Hoffman gives her character’s voice the angst of a young girl who would like to fit in, but has no one to help her…

‘This elderberry pie has been blessed…Now, don’t you worry about that broken latch on your screen door,’ Mr. Krick said {to Ida Mae}…’I’ll stop by tomorrow morning and get it all fixed up.’

I {CeeCee} made a mental note that if I ever needed help from a man, I would make him a pie.

The summer has CeeCee adapting to her new surroundings, and coping with her mother’s death.

“All I knew for sure was this: I had been plunked into a strange, perfumed world that, as far as I could tell, seemed to be run entirely by women.”

And CeeCee has adventures and fun, for the first time in her life – helping Miz Goodpepper revenge the killed magnolia tree, swimming in the forbidden pool with Oletta, stopping the wrecking ball from destroying a mansion.  Hoffman inserts a few short asides about racial tensions in the South, and old women in a nursing home, but glosses over them quickly with humor and convenient happy endings.  This story is about how life can change for the better in a New York minute (in this case Ohio), no matter how desperate and miserable.

A friend recommended this book, and I’m glad she did.  It was an enjoyable read, best savored in the summer at the beach, eating a ripe Georgia peach, if you can.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Double, double, toil and trouble…

With characters named after Shakespearean heroines and dialogue sprinkled with quotes from the Bard, Eleanor Brown delivers on the reference in her title – but without Macbeth or witches.  And, if you have sisters or daughters in your family, some of the scenes will resonate.

Set in a small college town in Ohio, The Weird Sisters has a predictable plot of family problem-solving and relationships.  Three unmarried sisters, named Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia by their English professor father, return home to care for their mother who has breast cancer.   But each also has her own unresolved life issues to confront.

..we love each other, we just don’t happen to like each other…

Brown uses a clever device to tell the story; at times, all three sisters are telling the story as one voice.  She has you inside their heads, seeing each other, themselves, and the world around them – in a kaleidoscopic view.  Can be strange (weird?) at times, but keeps the cauldron bubbling.

They are what they are, and yet not:  Rose, the eldest, most responsible and accomplished; Bean (Bianca) most beautiful; Cordy, youngest, most spoiled, and looking for something that is not a hand-me-down.  As the story develops around their mother’s cancer – chemo, surgery, embolisms – each sister confronts her own demons to face her destiny: Rose’s fear of leaving, Bean’s professional life as a “thief and liar,” Cordy’s irresponsibility and pregnancy.

Brown teases with some drama, and a little sex – and works in convenient plot twists to solve all problems – all’s well that ends well – maybe a little too neatly.  The characters, especially the sisters’ father, reference Shakespeare in their general conversation, but the quotes get a little overdone and, sometimes, you will wish Brown would just get on with it, and say what she means.

The Weird Sisters is a good story for a quiet afternoon – a Hallmark channel kind of luxury.  I cried and laughed a little, related to some scenes, recognized most of the Elizabethan references, looked forward to the ending…

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day… “