Thursday, May 23, 2013

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Looking for MeLooking for Me by Beth Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: A Southern novel of family and antiques from the bestselling author of the beloved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Beth Hoffman’s bestselling debut, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, won admirers and acclaim with its heartwarming story and cast of unforgettable characters. Now her unique flair for evocative settings and richly drawn Southern personalities shines in her compelling new novel, Looking for Me.

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.  But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

Looking for Me brilliantly melds together themes of family, hope, loss, and a mature once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. The result is a tremendously moving story that is destined to make bestselling author Beth Hoffman a novelist to whom readers will return again and again as they have with Adriana Trigiani, Fannie Flagg, and Joshilyn Jackson.

My thoughts: I am really trying to determine if this is a 4 or 5 star book. I'm leaning more to 5 star. It's not a book that moves quickly or hits the reader with a big "AHA!" but more of a quiet life, moving along that sneaks up on you by a reflection of life through one of the character's passions.

I don't really know how to explain what the book is about except perhaps a glimpse of the way we make our choices and and choose our paths. We don't get to choose for others but we do get to choose our perspectives and amount of optimism. Our life often reflects our attitude.

Hoffman paints her world with splashes of word color. I've never been to Kentucky but I've seen enough in my head to want to go to Teddi's childhood home. I want to meet Teddi's grandmother in Charleston, if she is still alive. I want to walk into Teddi's shop and watch Albert work his magic and listen to Inez. Of course these are all fictional people but I kept forgetting that was true. Hoffman is truly an artist.

Admittedly, I forgot more often than not to watch for the symbolism in the writing. It was just a book I enjoyed quietly. In retrospect, however, I realize that much of Teddi's life is reflected in work. When struggling through an intricate piece, she is working out a complex life problem. When making repairs on a particularly beautiful and expensive piece of furniture, it is indicative of something in her life. When one of her favorite antiques goes missing from her collection, she mourns the loss only until she finds it and does not reclaim it. It is symbolic of her heart.

Josh is near and dear to my heart for personal reasons reflecting on my own life. Josh is the baby brother of Teddi who becomes one with nature. He is closer to animals than people and becomes symbolic of the Raven, making right the wrongs. The big mystery is if Josh is still alive or if he is dead. He simply disappeared one night. This was his red, white, and blue. Teddi's was the car from her father and some cash to get her through. Also, her chance crossing with Mr. Palmer who changed her life. Later, she pays it forward.

The themes repeat throughout the book and could be studied and discussed at great lengths. The characters can be compared and contrasted in regard to optimism, hope, resistance to change, giving spirit, freedom, work and love. It is apparent when Teddi opens herself to love and uncertainty as she opens herself not only to a man but to life, in general. She becomes more generous and able to let go of memories and physical objects. She also gains much more in return.

Interspersed throughout the book are also Teddi's memories of her childhood; of Josh, her Grammy, her mother and father. New information is offered by Stella and Grammy, along with discoveries as she cleans out the house and barn. The characters are contrasted by their acceptance of what life has dealt them, their willingness to see opportunity or become bitter, and how they either hang on or let go.

The book is much deeper than the story. It touches on many life lessons but I need more time to think about it for a couple of days. Beautifully written.

1 comment:

Beth Hoffman said...

Tonight, I happened to come across your blog and was so surprised (and delighted) to read your review of my new novel. Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm so happy that you enjoyed Teddi's story and honored that it earned a five-star review.