The other day I ran into the library to pick up an audio book. I was going to be doing a lot driving so why not get a book in! I only had a few minutes so I headed directly to the new audio book section and looked for a familiar title. I thought that I had remembered reading something about Saving CeeCee Honeycutt so without even reading the back, I grabbed it and proceeded to the self check out. I had no idea what it was about. I later realized that the book I was actually thinking of was The Secret Life of Ceecee Wilkes, a very different book! At least I had the Ceecee part! I am not sure if I would have picked this book had I known what it was about however it was a heart warming story. Laugh out loud funny at times and sad at others.
Twelve year old Cecilia Rose (CeeCee) is wise beyond her years. Unfortunately her mother suffered from mental illness and it often fell upon CeeCee to take care of her. It was not unusual to spot CeeCee’s mothers parading around town in a prom dress and tiara which she had purchased at the local Good Will Store. Although the year was 1967 and she lived in Ohio, in her mother’s mind it was 1951 and she was still the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia. She was an unhappy, troubled soul and although she loved CeeCee very much she was in no condition to be a mother. Poor CeeCee never knew what to expect from her mother and was constantly embarrassed by her mother’s actions. CeeCee’s father was rarely home and the only one she had to turn to was Ms. O’Dell, a sweet elderly neighbor.
When CeeCee’s mother is hit and killed by an ice cream truck one day on the way back from the Goodwill Store, CeeCee is sent to live with her Great Aunt Tootie in Savannah. Tootie is a cheerful, loving southern lady and according to the author is actually based on her Great Aunt Mildred. Tootie’s African-American cook/housekeeper Oletta Jones who has worked for her for years is tough on the outside yet warm and kind on the inside. Together Tootie and Oletta strive to give CeeCee the love and security she so desperately needed and to help her cope with the loss of her mother.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was a touching story about mothers and daughters, as well as friendship and love. It also tackles the more serious topics of mental illness and racism. The story is told in the words of CeeCee although it is hard to imagine a twelve-year-old being quite this insightful. I enjoyed listening to the southern accents, however after listening to all of the controversy over the dialect in The Help and all of the concern as to the stereotypical characters in The Help, I can’t ” help” but wonder if this is more of the same.