Top positive review
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Beth Hoffman - Stunning debut
on 25 February 2010
The book tells the story of CeeCee, a sweet young girl living with a psycotic mother. Her father left home, leaving CeeCee to cope with her mother who was convinced she was still the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. Life was really tough for CeeCee, yet she coped; until her mother was killed by an icecream truck. CeeCee is distraught,especially when she is shipped off to live a great aunt that she has never heard of. Can life get any worse.
When CeeCee moves in with Aunt Tootie and her feisty maid Oleta, life changes for the better. Aunt Tootie surrounds CeeCee with a wonderful world filled with good old Southern hospitality. CeeCee falls in love with all the eccentric people that make her welcome in Savannah. Her world becomes full of strong, wilful, independent women who nurture CeeCee back to happiness.
This book is full of a series of episodic events which highlight CeeCee's spiritual growth over her first summer in Savannah. You sit on the sidelines as you watch CeeCee meet the most amazing women who quickly pull CeeCee into their world.
The first part of the book is really sad until CeeCee's move to Savannah and then it brightened up to a wonderful world of life in the South. It reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, where the first part is filmed in black and white, then Dorothy lands in Oz, and the world is just full of colour.
I fell in love with Aunt Tootie and Oleta. Aunt Tootie is like the grandmother we all dream of. She spends a lot of time involving CeeCee in her life, by sharing her passion for historical buildings and her love of gardening. Oleta is a real feisty character, who really brings CeeCee out of her shell, by her no nonsense attitude. The house feels warm and inviting and you know if you knocked on their front door, they would invite you in for one of Oleta's 'fabulous cinnamon rolls'.
I just loved every aspect of this book. The passages were rich and full of flavour. I wanted to soak up every word that was written in this book.
I want to share three of my favourite passages with you, because I found them so utterly beautiful.
1)A conversation between CeeCee and Mrs Odell, her beloved next door neighbour.
' Life is full of change, honey. That's how we learn and grow. When we're born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book. Chapter by chapter, we live and learn'.
'But, Mrs Odell, I've never heard of a Life Book'.
'It's not a book you can see or touch. It's a book that's held deep within your heart. It's guarded by your spirit'.
'Yes',she said, smoothing a loose strand of hair from her face. 'When a chapter of your Life Book is complete, your spirit knows it's time to turn the page so a new chapter can begin. even when you're scared or think you're not ready, your spirit knows you are.'
2)CeeCee's arrival in Savannah.
'The biggest trees I'd ever seen reached out to one another as if trying to hold hands over wide, brick-paved streets, and grand old houses stood tall and proud on smooth-dappled lawns. Like a curious spaniel, I leaned my head out of the window and breathed in.'
3)CeeCee's thoughts after a conversation about the Dalai Lama and the Karma Sutra.
'I had never hear of a holy man named after a llama, I'd never heard of a great gaping vagina, and I didn't know a thing about the black boomerang of karma. 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.'
This book is really beautiful and one that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It reminded me a little of The Secret Life of Bees, purely for the unhappy beginning and the move to the South, but that is where it ends. I kept thinking of Steel Magnolias as I read it, as the book is full of such strong women who have never needed a man to help them live their lives. It would be an ideal read for the Women Unbound Challenge as well as the Southern Reading Challenge.
This is the first book to actually make me laugh and cry. When it is sad, be prepared to have your hankies at the ready, and when it is funny, still keep those hankies handy as you will be crying with laughter.
I could not fault this book at all, I loved every word of it and it will definitely be one that I will read again in the future. I really hope that the rumours of a sequel are true, because I want to know more about this unusual family. Well done Beth, on such a fantastic debut novel.