Book Review: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

When I finally settled down with The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain on Friday evening, I was not expecting to finish the book within 24 hours and certainly didn’t expect to pull an all-nighter in the process.

But sure enough, the book captured my attention. And so I read. From 6 to 6:30 pm on Friday. And from 11 pm to 7 am. And finally, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m Saturday.

NOTE: This book review is designed for others who have read the book. For complete background information on the story, you can view Chamberlain’s website.

Needless to say, I dove right into the story. And although I found the plot and characters enthralling, I think my pace was slightly induced by my anticipation of flashbacks for the story. When CeeCee began and Eve later took over, I was not expecting such linear storytelling. Though, ultimately, I think it worked.

Chamberlain writes in her bio that her books “explore the complexities of human relationships – between mean and women, brothers and sisters, parents and children.”  As someone who shares a similar interest in the realm of relationships, this book satisfied my need for characters written with depth and development. I thought each character was not only properly explored, but also given a great range of emotions and growth.

I think the book is well suited for anyone looking for a griping plot mixed with pages of character development. It’s also worth a discussion on morals, crime, media attention, etc. But that’s a whole other shabang. For now, I’ll leave you with my positives and negatives of the novel.

The Positives:

  • I loved the way Chamberlain’s writing embodied the maturity of each character in their tone and voice. Even though the novel was written in third person, I could feel the growth of the characters as the story continued. So, for example, at the end of the book, when Eve is trying to explain CeeCee’s actions, I could barely remember why CeeCee acted how she did. Her world had melted away as Eve grew and matured.
  • Similarly, did anyone else find resemblance between Corinne’s opening chapter and CeeCee’s beginning chapters? The way they mused about their respective lovers were so similar –  both so caught up, blind and naive in love. You could tell Chamberlain wanted us to see the cracks in Corinne and Ken’s relationship right off the bat. (ex: When she talked about sex with him, you could feel he was in control of the relationship. And the telltale “you won’t need me anymore” line at the beginning was also a warning sign.)
  • Frankly, I wanted to hug my mom after finishing the book. Chamberlain’s mother-daughter relationship motif I really kept everything stringing together. I’m not sure if any of the relationships were very realistic, but they definitely took an emotional toll on the readers (or me!).
  • CeeCee’s mom’s letters. “nuff said. So beautiful. And the perfect tone setter.
  • I very rarely enjoy the endings of books – but this one left me very satisfied. I think Chamberlain gave us full closure (I would have hated it if Eve never visited Tim in jail) and I closed the book feeling like there was much positivity left for all the characters in the book. (And I love a happy ending!)

The Negatives:

  • The part that lagged most for me (although it also lagged at a few points where Cory was growing up) were the court room and law proceeding scenes. It would be irresponsible for Chamberlain to have told the story sans media or law drama, but those parts kind of stole the romanticism of the story for me. Thankfully, I don’t think they were too intrusive and didn’t last too long.
  • CeeCee’s fear and naivety left me uneasy a few times while I was reading. If I hadn’t read it all in one sitting, I think I would have been a tad anxious in between reads.
  • Cory also frustrated me a few times. I just didn’t find her actions like those of a 28-year-old woman. I still cheered her on through the end, even with her unlikeablity, because some of her reactions were very realistic.
  • I’m a bit curious about the historical correctness of Tim’s kidnapping attempt. Were politicians “unwilling to negotiate with terrorist” even in the 70’s?
  • I really don’t enjoy reading about character’s at their lowest points and the last fourth of the book really portrayed Cory and Eve at their worst. Nervous, unthinking / callous, crude. I understand it was necessary to the story and at least moved forward to a happy ending.

Honestly, I don’t have too many bad things to say about this book! I really enjoyed reading and finishing it!

It may not have been my favorite book, ever – that’s reserved for The Book Thief – but it will certainly stick with me as one to recommend.

I’m also long forward to hearing how others reacted to this book. If you read it, do you agree with my criticism or praises? If you are here from Julie’s March Book Club, is there an aspect you think I forget to mention in my review?

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One thought on “Book Review: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

  1. Thanks for this review! I know I’m cheating for reading it since I haven’t read the book yet but now I really want to! I’ve been on the lookout for a good new book 😀

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