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?


Spilling It to Strangers

I want to extend a largee THANK YOU to the amazing bloggers and viewers out there who have dropped by Mmm Stories!!

Seriously, thank you all so much for your warm welcome and kind words as I begin to find my voice and subject in this blog! Since it’s creation only a month ago, I don’t think I’ve really taken the time to tell you all how much I appreciate you passing by and giving me a chance. I know our community is filled with amazing bloggers and readers and I am already grateful for starting this blog because it has introduced me to handfuls of new, talented writers and people. Every comment and view seriously fills me with joy.It has felt great to hear your perspective and even more, your encouragement.

Spilling it

I’ve been conversing with friends lately about the way in which people share their stories. I respect and appreciate those who reflect and sort through their lives online because it is their decision to share. It takes courage and talent to express oneself so openly online. Yet, as I’ve entered the real world, I’ve been surprised by the amount of people from all age-ranges who have unprecedentedly spilled their problems verbally to me. I am always excited to learn something new or connect with someone – but sometimes I wonder if there’s a new norm.

Ever meet someone whose problems seem to ooze out of them with every spoken word? Like their ever-mounted problems seem so uncontrollable they can’t help but share with anyone who engages in a conversation with them? So you are learning about a fellow volunteer’s struggle to get custody or support or hearing about your waxer’s efforts to fund her mother’s cancer treatments?

While I appreciate a person’s honesty, and try my hardest to sympathize, I am floored by the blatancy in which every day men and women share personal details with someone they’ve just met. I’m beginning to wonder: is this what it means to be grown up? Are adults more prone to divulging problems because they are secure with the issue, understanding that many others have gone through divorces or children problems, etc? Or is it meant to build friendship and intimacy and create a relationship? Or do someone people not have anyone else to talk to?

I’ve always confided in friends and family or brought up troubles during well-timed events. I’ve tried to keep positive and optimistic even during problematic times. Is this actually..childish..of me?

Perhaps it is because I enjoy getting to know others that I can sense someone’s disappointment and hurt literally conflicting with his or her mind. But it leaves me to question, very seriously,on my not so serious blog, what is the time and place and manners for spilling problems to strangers?

The Book Thief

These thoughts have come to me after a long weekend nose-in-book. I’ve spent most of my weekend curled up trying to finish a book for a Book Club meeting I have today. My sorority sisters and I started a book club and it’s basically my new favorite tradition.

This month’s book was 540 pages of AMAZINGNESSS hailing from the title, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It follows a story of a 10-year old girl named Leisel growing up in Nazi Germany from 1939 – 1942. Her story is one of a normal girl trying to find pleasure and live her life despite the horrific time. Most interestingly, it’s told from the perspective of Death.

Taken from the review: Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel’s story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.

I loved the tone of the book; the narration is very clearly told by someone who has been doing their job for so long that they feel no shame nonchalantly spilling important plot points or spoiling suspenseful moments through out the story, as well as throwing in a few sarcastic, even cynical, excerpts in there too.

It’s a beautiful, emotional, heartbreaking story. Zusak blends history with relatable, human characters and has you feel for every one of them. It was easy to plow through the entirety of the book, though from some of the dark nature, I wouldn’t recommend it being the last thing you see before you go to bed.  I seriously cried for 20 minutes while finishing the book and felt SPENT after. I highly recommend this title and can’t wait to hear my friend’s perspectives at Book Club.

I’ve volunteered to host next month’s book club (mostly so I can prepare snacks) and am trying to decide if I should select a new bestseller fiction book (they’ve all been so far), a trashy beach read, a piece of non-fiction (recently up my alley) or a childhood throwback (like The Giver). So much pressure!

What do you think I should pick for book club next month? Any suggestions? Should I go bestseller, trashy beach read, non-fiction or childhood throwback?

What is the correct manner of expressing and sharing our problems? Are there rules?