Southern fiction is a genre I love but only if it's done well. Beth Hoffman not only does it well, she is masterful. I often hesitate before reading follow-up novels after the author has such a gorgeous debut as Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, so I approached this one skeptically. It is a thrill to be able to say that Looking for Me is every bit as good as her first.
Teddi Overman, the central figure in the story, is well-portrayed southern lady. Growing up in rural Kentucky, she watches her mother go about a dull, monotonous existence, and as she nears adulthood, comes to the realization that she is never going to be happy living the life her mother seems to want for her - a job (preferably in an office) with benefits, and obviously eventually a husband. Teddi however, has other ideas. From early childhood she is attracted to old things - furniture, glass, silver - any kind of antiques. Her artistic talent thrives on revitalizing just about any old "stuff" she can find. She dreams of a life among beautiful, artsy, and creatively challenging.
Her brother Josh on the other hand, is thoroughly devoted to nature - animals, birds, trees, and in general just wants everyone to respect the life that exists around them. His disappearance as Teddi is pondering her own future, deeply affects her sense of home, but cannot diminish her longing to break away from her mother's expectations. When she leaves home in the middle of the night, she not only abandons the typewriter her mother gave her as a graduation gift, but the close-knit town where she grew up.
Teddi eventually finds her way to Charleston South Carolina, the queen of southern cities where she finds her place in life. Shifting back and forth between Kentucky and South Carolina, the story weaves a tale of family, friends, southern gentility, heartbreak, and romantic love. There are some wonderfully engaging scenes of almost stereotypical "characters"; there are scenes of wretched despondency; there are emotional ups and downs (a prerequisite for good southern fiction); and there are descriptions of exquisite beauty - both in the scenery and in the relationships of the people. There is advice from a wise grandmother; there is solace from old friends; there is unmatched generosity from unexpected sources.
In some areas, particularly in Teddi's struggles to find out what happened to her brother, the story seems a bit stretched. However, it doesn't detract from the overall beauty of the life portrayed. It's another winner and one I'm happy to recommend to readers.
So without further ado, here's the winner of Looking For Me:
Margie ! ! !
I've sent her an email and she has until noon on Friday to get back to me with her mailing address. Thanks to everyone who entered. Be sure to track down a copy of this one. It's definitely worth getting.
Many thanks to Catherine at Viking/Penguin for sending a review copy and for making a copy available for the giveaway.