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4.4 out of 5 stars
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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'.

'My 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.
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on 29 September 2013
The editorial blurb compares this to The Color Purple-no way!
The Color Purple is in a completely different league to this effort. This is an easy read, likeable but in no way taxing. Skims over anything "gritty" and never really looks at anything too deeply. I thougbt I was reading a book for children at some points. Nice try, but not a "must read"
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on 6 May 2013
I liked the first part of the book, the narrator, 12 year old Cee Cee, and the detailed and sad descriptions of her mentally-ill mother. There was true struggle and difficulty, and beauty shining through the clouds.
But when CeeCee was sent to live with her great-Aunt in Savannah, things started to go downhill. Living in a beautiful old southern mansion, she was introduced to the charm and generosity of the South to which her mother yearned to return. The characters are loveable but not very convincing and pretty one-dimensional. A very smart and mature 12-year old, the benevolent old Southern white society lady who saves her little grand-niece and her grumpy-but-oh-so-likeable black maid who loves her white employer.
I also wish this book had a better plot. This book pretends that it is headed somewhere, never gets there, then its over . Having read the back of the book - I expected more. "When a darker side of the southern dream threatens CeeCee's delicate, newfound happiness, Aunt Tootie and her friends must rally too CeeCee's aid." To be honest, I don't even know what section of the book this is meant to refer to.
The book has a couple of false-starts where I thought things would get a bit more interesting but crises were whipped up out of nowhere and then were solved with sickeningly sweet platitudes. Positive life lessons were dished out every 15 pages. The conflict at Tybee beach was quickly and neatly wrapped up in one page! This was particularly disappointing, as it could have added real depth to the story; instead, the author gave some unbelievable explanation in order to end it. In summary; there wasn't any real conflict or depth, it was 300 pages of CeeCee living the charmed life in her big rich Southern house with her big rich Southern aunt.
In addition, the author used too many awkward sounding metaphors for example "I was nestled deep in the feather bed like a baby bird in a nest". "A string of cream-puff clouds seemed to bump into the treetops".
The book touches on but does not effectively address important topics like mental health, conservation, racism and death. Overall, it is lacking depth, had a very limited plot and is at times simply too unrealistic. Although sugary sweat, overly positive, light and fluffy, it is heart-warming, feel good story. Sadly though, it did not live up to my expectations and in my opinion it is in no way a "must read".
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on 16 July 2010
I read a review for this book on a USA reading blog and received my copy as a birthday present from a friend.
This is my first review for Amazon and felt I just had to add a review to highlight this book to readers.

A beautifully written novel about 12 year old CeeCee who goes to live with a maiden aunt after losing her mother.
There are some strong southern women around CeeCee to teach her about life and inspire her.

If you liked The Help you will like this read too.

5 out of 5 for me.
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on 7 January 2013
Cecelia Rose (CeeCee) Honeycutt is only twelve years old when her mother, Camille, dies in a terrible accident in 1967. By then she has been taking care of her psychotic mother for years while her father, a travelling salesman, spends less and less time at home. Camille who was born and raised in Georgia is deeply unhappy in Northern Ohio; so unhappy that eventually she rejects her everyday reality and lives her life as if it is 1951 and she has just won a Georgia beauty pageant. With her mother going around town in elaborate party dresses and a tiara in her hair, CeeCee has become the laughing stock among her peers. Without friends and with responsibilities beyond her years, CeeCee's only support is Mrs. Odell an elderly neighbour.

After her mother's dead CeeCee's father decides that she would be better of living with her great-aunt Tootie in Savannah. Rejected by her father and forced to leave behind the only person to ever take care of her, CeeCee travels to her new home with a heavy heart and only Mrs. Odell's words to give her strength:

"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."

And Savannah really is a new page in CeeCee's Life Book. From her aunt who never seems to stop and can't think bad about anybody to Oletta Jones the house cook, from the eccentric neighbour looking for Nirvana and prone to taking naked midnight baths to the rude lady having an affair with a local policeman, the women in her new town welcome the lost girl with open arms and show her life beyond the sadness.

Over the course of a long, hot summer CeeCee learns about love, acceptance, prejudice, loyalty as well as rules to live by:

"Don't grow up too fast darling. Age is inevitable, but if you nurture a childlike heart, you'll never ever grow old."

It will take CeeCee a while to get over the guilt she feels about her mother's dead and the fear she has that she, like her mother, is destined to one day lose her mind. But when she does - thanks to all the strong and loving women in her life - she also finds the strength to forgive herself and accept that, even at her maddest moments, her mother loved her; a realisation that brings back words her mother once spoke:

"It's how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty."

This is an emotional roller-coaster of a book. It is impossible not to have your heart break when you read about young CeeCee dealing with her mother's madness and the pain and feelings of guilt she goes through after her mother dies. But it is equally impossible not to smile and even laugh at the antics the ladies in Savannah get up to occasionally and by the end of the book your heart will rejoice at CeeCee's new found happiness and faith in the future.

In CeeCee Honeycutt Beth Hoffman has created a realistic and endearing character that will stay in your thoughts long after you finish the book. The author has managed to perfectly catch the thoughts and feelings of a twelve year old girl with the weight of the world on her young shoulders. CeeCee is a child who knows far too much about everything that can be wrong in the world and that comes across clearly.
CeeCee's new home in Savannah is described with almost cinematic clarity; I could hear the voices, see the old houses, the gardens and taste the glorious food.

This is a beautiful and emotional story about love and survival with a realistic and wonderfully uplifting ending. This is a lovely read!
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on 22 March 2010
I was not sure I would like this book when I ordered it, what a delightful surprise I got when I starting reading this Great Book. I could not put this book down and ending up reading it in one sitting...I can not praise this book highly enough. I am looking forward to Beth Hoffman's next book!!! BRAVO
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on 11 May 2013
Readable but could have been more gritty for me. Premise that Prince Charming aunt never tried to help/contact her alchoholic, mentally unbalanced neice before she dies ( at beginning of novel), doesn't ring true to aunt's exemplary character.
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on 23 June 2014
This story was both funny and heart warming, sad and moving sometime all on the same page. The move of the story is smooth yet I found l just wanted to read just a little more before putting it down I read it in just two short days. Relax and enjoy the book I would recommend to all.
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on 25 October 2013
Impressive writing by ms Hoffman regarding her treament of writing about mental illness through the eyes of a child....and racial segregation, both difficult subjects. But it's a 'feel good story with a happy ending. You would want to take CeeCee home too. I really enjoyed reading this book and love the Southern domestic detail.
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on 13 September 2015
My best book this summer! I have told many friends to read it! I read. It in a Norwegian translation first, but I have now bought it in english, to read and enjoy it again. A spesial book about family, friendship through a childs voice.
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