One of my favorite reading genres is southern literature — I can take it in just about any form, as long as it has a healthy dose of the south. I’m amenable to trying different genres with the southern element, including titles like Beautiful Creatures, which I’d otherwise never pick up. When I first read about Saving CeeCee Honeycutt in a trade journal, it sounded like something right up my alley, even though I’m not a huge fan of so-called “domestic fiction” (is that not the most useless term?). The description immediately made me think of Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees, which I read years ago and liked well enough.
I decided to give this one a whirl on audiobook, hoping I’d get some nice southern vocals, and I was not disappointed.
CeeCee Honeycutt hasn’t had an easy childhood: her father is always gone away on business, and she is left at home with her mother in Willoughby, Ohio, who is herself losing her mind. CeeCee’s mother was once a pageant queen in Georgia, and over the course of the beginning of the story, she becomes more stuck in her past to the point she is wearing old prom dresses, garish makeup, and making a show of herself in the small town. On one of her regular trips to the Goodwill cut her mother’s life short, though, when she gets hit by a car, and now CeeCee is left to fend for herself.
Fortunately, an aunt of CeeCee from Savannah, Georgia, offers up her home and her love for young CeeCee. Aunt Tootie takes her in, moving her from Ohio to Savannah, where CeeCee gains not only a home, but a wealth of new motherly figures.
This book doesn’t have a whole lot of action, but it is a sweet story of growing up. I found CeeCee’s discovery of the power of southern women particularly interesting, and I thought that each of the women depicted in this story were well-drawn. Savannah can be tasted in the story. Hoffman’s story delves into many issues facing the south in the late 1960s, as well, including racial tension, politics, and the emerging power and importance of women. None of these topics were included to serve a point but instead, they enhanced the setting and period of the novel. This is a book about growing up and appreciating what’s around you when it’s easy to overlook the everyday. Book clubs will love this title — more on this in a second. This is marketed as an adult novel, but I can see teens enjoying this title as well, particularly those who are into lighter reads, Oprah-esque books, or even the Bronte sisters.
Jenna Lamia gives a wonderful fully-voiced reading of this title. CeeCee is a young main character, not quite in her teen years yet. Lamia is believable and her waivering voice for CeeCee is spot on, with just enough fear and confidence to render her a true-to-live pre-teen. Lamia’s ability to create a fully-voiced audiobook is impressive, given the range of accents and ages she needed to develop. The production quality of this audiobook is top notch, with no sound changes, volume changes, or obvious seams in the editing. This was a smooth listen that forced me to sit in my car once I got past my destination more than one time.
Does this title seem familiar to you? Perhaps it’s because it is very similar to that of the previously mentioned Secret Life of Bees. The books both have the same editor, who started at Penguin with SLoB, left for a year, and then was offered her own imprint by Penguin, Pamela Dorman books. Oh, and it’ll be the first pick of the Sam’s Club book club (perhaps they’re capitalizing off the incredible money-making book club Target has going)? Dorman has an eye for southern fiction, so expect more of this type in her line, which you can read about here.
So, after putting those pieces together, I dove into learning a bit about Jenna Lamia, the book’s reader. Guess what book she also read and won an audie for? If your answer was SLoB, then you’re good. Her repertoire is strong, and I definitely plan on seeking out other books she’s read for, as she was a pleasant companion for the last week.
If you’re looking for a strong audiobook to begin listening to, whether as a new listener or a seasoned one, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will not disappoint. In fact, it might make you want to learn more about the author, the editor, the reader….which is always a bonus, isn’t it?