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?


Best Staycation Ever

What exactly does one do on Staycation in Chicago?

Let me tell you!

– Visit the Bean at Millennium Park  late at night, when it’s even more reflective than during the day. Beware of pesky security guards.

– Sit in rush hour reverse commute traffic. Twice.

– Walk Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.

– Grab deep dish pizza from Giordano’s. (Though Lou Malnati’s has my heart too).

– Drink in Wrigleyville while watching the Cubs play right next door and enjoy the quality people-watching that comes from drunk Cubs fans. Cubs = party = love.

– Share late night McDonald’s cookies.

– Take a day off work.

– Make a trip down Lakeshore Drive to The Art Institute of Chicago. See a few famous paintings.


– Visit the nightlife and pub scene in the Gold Coast.

– Get taken to a realllllly nice dinner (how I managed to add this to the list was very lucky).

– Shmooze the waiter until you’re BFFs; get a free ginormous chocolate mousse cake.

– Explore the beauty ::cough:: that is the North Suburbs

– Enjoy more classic suburban fare: purveying the wide draft and vegetarian selection at The Yardhouse, nabbing free drinks (strawberry mojito!) at RA Sushi, and sitting down to a delicious meal at home

– Stay up all night hanging downtown and making new friends in order to drive to Midway at 5 am

If this sounds like a great Staycation Datecation to you, then I would completely agree!

I love Chicago!

The rest of the weekend had some more adventures which will definitely come in the next post! Let me say, even though I can’t wait to jump back on the clean eating and working out schedule, I know it will be a transition. That was more restaurant eatin’ than I’ve done in a loooong time.

Restaurant Rave

But before I fade away from this special week, I want to share a little more about Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House – the seafood sister of famous Chicago steakhouse, Gibson’s – and the ritzy restaurant we frequented Wednesday night.

Roaming the corner of Rush and State, my friend and I found many nice restaurants and bar. But fish cravings were calling our name to Hugo’s and even better, I happened to know the host at the door!

While the price range is inappropriate for anything other than a special occasion – or perhaps a senior job income – the restaurant is well worth it! With a diverse wine list of whites and reds and specialty house bottles, there’s something for everyone to start with.

Like all my favorite restaurants, this one opens with amazing breads. Specifically a loaf of cinnamon-raisin! I’ve never seen raisin bread served as an opening dish but woww was it amazing!

My most important recommendation is to request Adam as your server. He is awesome! Interesting, entertaining and fun, we bantered with him all evening and heard about his new exercise regime along with his family’s background in the Marine Corps. He set such a fun mood!

My friend and I split the Walleye and Halibut fish entrees – both were so amazing. I specifically liked the Walleye even though I’d never had it before. It was fresh and crusty and thick. Though each entree come with choice of soup or salad (Adam upgraded soups for us too), side orders are ala cart and family style. In Chicago, we do it big!

And even though bread and fish and wine should have been enough, Adam bought us a dessert and the fluffiest, chocolate-iest, largest mousse cake I’ve ever seen. I would love to see the other desserts they have!

Seriously, we got our nom on at Hugos! If you’re ever feeling particularly celebratory, I absolutely recommend this place – of course red meat eaters will love its sibling, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, as well.

Have you ever been to an extremely nice restaurant? What is your favorite food to order out? Do you like deep dish pizza? What is your favorite museum?

Awkward Staycationing


First, just a shout-out that I re-updated my About Me page! Check it outt!

This week is a little nutty for me as I’m taking a “staycation” downtown while a friend is in Chicago for interviews. Packing for a week away from home while not technically going away is weirdddd!

But my car is loaded up and my fridge at work is stocked up and on Monday night, I said “Byee” to my family until I’ll return Friday.

The experience was actually my first time menu planning with such detail. For work lunches, I roasted a BIG bunch of zucchini, squash, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, green beans and  pea pods and split them into different Tupperware containers, pairing them with tofu or on top of a salad with hard boiled egg and black beans. I also bagged up sliced apples, nuts and raisins for each meal.

Preparing the week in advance was pretty fun and maybe something I implement from now on as it saves me time each day to not have to worry about packing a lunch – though it doesn’t take leftovers into consideration.

Awkward Stories of the Week

Summer is almosttttttt upon us and that means the return of beach weather and tanning!! In preparation, I redeemed a brazilian wax Groupon at a nice salon in Glencoe. The place is called Angeliza Spa and I havee to recommend it to any Chicagoans because it was the quickest, most painless wax in my life! And speed and comfort make all the difference when someone’s ripping hair off your unmentionables.

The owner also made moves to set me up with her son, who is around my age and Jewish. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Then I started wondering how I felt that this boy’s mom had seen me with my pants off…..I guess she approved of what she saw.

Ha! And that, my friends, is how I took this blog to a whole new level of awkwardness.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

This morning during my commute, I officially finished the audio version of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It’s been well received by almost everyone already, but I also had to chime in my support.

The book breaks your heart, makes you laugh out loud and inserts smooth commentary on the human race through an engaging tone and outsider perspective. I became totally immersed in the characters’ lives and thought it was such a smart touch to introduce the story from the dog’s point of view. I do judge a book on a bad ending and this one, fortunately, did not let me down. All loose ends were tied up and I ended the book both in fits of tears and a smile on my face.

Good to note: They’re making a movie based on the book, due out in 2012! I really wish they could choose the narrator from my audio book to voice for Enzo, the dog, in the movie because his voice was perfect!

But that’s the problem. As much as I love listening to a book-on-tape,  it is just not OK to be bawling your eyes out in the middle of morning traffic!  Sunglasses stayed on, makeup was re-applied at work and fingers were crossed that drivers didn’t think I was spasming on my drive. That was one emotional drive.

Have you ever taken a Staycation?

Do you meal plan?

Are you as awkward as I am?

See you all later this week! 🙂