A first novel by Beth Hoffman, this is the story of 12-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt, who has been the caretaker for her mother, a psychotic former beauty queen. CeeCee’s father has taken a powder, her mother is nutty as a fruitcake, and her only friend in her small town “up north” is Mrs. Odell, the widow lady who lives across the street. But when an even greater tragedy strikes, CeeCee’s salvation comes in the form of her great aunt Tootie, who rides into town in a vintage Packard and carries her off to a new life in Savannah, Georgia. If you’re like me, February is the time you’re yearning for a good read, a book that will take you away to a different time and place, and fully engage you in the life of a character you’ll come to know and love. That’s CeeCee. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that the editor of SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT is the brilliant and beautiful Pamela Dorman, who also acquired and published a little book you might have heard of a few years ago, a book called THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd. Pam also happens to be married to the brilliant and dashing Stuart Krichevsky, who is my literary agent. So you know she has impeccable taste, both in books and husbands. Also on my nightstand these days is a new memoir by a former colleague from my days at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s ENCHANTED BARBIE AND THE SECOND COMING.
Starting out life as a foot-washing Baptist growing up in small Southern towns, graduating from journalism school at Auburn University and a life spent chronicling the everyday and the odd for a string of newspapers fortunate enough to hire her, Rheta Johnson’s eye for detail and her ability to make both the comic and tragic come alive make for a wonderful memoir. Her tales of starting a weekly newspaper on St. Simon’s Island, of meeting and marrying a journalism professor, and her ill-starred stint at the AJC had me from the get-go. Hers is a clear-eyed but affectionate look at a region she loves. There’s lots to love in this memoir–except for the book jacket. But don’t let that put you off. This is really a Valentine to a life in the South that’s rapidly disappearing. Which brings me to the third new book on my bedside table.