Bittersweet Southern Charm: Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

cover image“A Southern novel of family and antiques from the bestselling author of the beloved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt,” is how the publisher describes Looking for Me, a novel by Beth Hoffman.

If it hadn’t been chosen as a book club selection this month, I probably never would have picked up Looking for Me, despite seeing blogger after blogger give it rave reviews and include it on annual lists of favorites for 2013. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an irrational prejudice against “Southern” books. Also books with photos on the cover that look like they could have been lifted out of a women’s magazine. Plus, I’ve been fooled too many times by glowing reviews for books like The Friday Night Knitting Club that tugged at my heartstrings but lacked enough character development to really engage me.

Looking for Me definitely falls into the category of women’s fiction – with the smart, sassy, female main character/narrator, Teddi, whom every reader would love to have as a best friend; Teddi’s own best friend, Olivia (a rare book dealer); a supporting cast of colleagues and family; and, of course, cozy descriptions of food (Yes, pie makes an appearance.*) antiques, and other home furnishings – but the author’s sense of humor, fondness for her quirky, socially awkward characters, and opting for realism over sentimentality more often than not, makes it an outstanding example of the women’s fiction genre. If it weren’t for the girlish cover, more men might read and enjoy it – if not for the antiquing and Teddi’s efforts to become the owner of her own shop – then for the descriptions of the farms, birds, wildlife, and woods of rural Kentucky where Teddi’s family lived.

The story told in the first person by Teddi revolves around her brother Josh and the mystery of what happened to him. It jumps backwards and forwards in time from Teddi’s childhood years in the 1960s with an unhappy mother, a loving but taciturn father, and a younger brother who was far more in tune with the natural world than with his peers, to Teddi’s current life in Charleston, South Carolina. At present, Teddi has lived in Charleston for many years. She drives home for visits, waiting for her mother to agree to come to Charleston for a visit, never feeling the closeness she wishes they could have as mother and daughter. The absence of Josh lies unspoken of between them, along with the years of past misunderstandings.

If you have already read and liked Looking for Me, you may also like Meg Mitchell Moore’s novels, The Arrivals and So Far Away; Joyce Maynard’s The Good Daughters; Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap books; and/or these authors, whose books I haven’t read yet:

Diane Chamberlain
Lisa Patton
Anne Rivers Siddons
Karen White

I didn’t have the book finished in time to attend the book club meeting, but here’s a link to what the group thought.

*rhubarb

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Looking for Me
Hoffman, Beth
Viking, May 28, 2013
9780670025831
368 pp.$27.95

Disclosure: I borrowed a copy of this book from the public library.

Other opinions on Looking for Me (all very good to excellent):
Beth Fish Reads
Bibliophile by the Sea
A Bit Bookish
Rhapsody in Books
That’s What She Read

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18 thoughts on “Bittersweet Southern Charm: Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman”

  1. Despite all the wonderful reviews, I had not been inclined to pick up this novel… until now. Thank you.

    My reaction to The Friday Night Knitting Club was similar to yours. It had the unfortunate distinction of being my least favorite book the year I read it.

    1. It was such a sad story that I felt bad not thinking TFNKC was a very good book. I’ll watch for your thoughts on Looking for Me. (Maybe it would have been better to start with the author’s first book, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, but the two books aren’t connected in any way.)

  2. I am glad you gave this book a try and enjoyed it. Diane Chamberlain is my favorite author, she describes the characters so I connect with them on an emotional level. I have read probably 6 of her books and loved them all. I enjoy Southern lit so think I will give this one a try.

    1. I haven’t read anything by Diane Chamberlain yet. Looking for Me is only Beth Hoffman’s second book, so you won’t have too many to catch up on if you like it.

  3. “I have an irrational prejudice against…books with photos on the cover that look like they could have been lifted out of a women’s magazine.”

    Ahh, me too! For example looking at the cover of this, I think; what IS it? Fiction? A book about interior design? I find them really off-putting!

  4. Thank you for your gorgeous review of my novel. My heart swelled a bit when I read these words: “…the author’s sense of humor, fondness for her quirky, socially awkward characters, and opting for realism over sentimentality more often than not, makes it an outstanding example of the women’s fiction genre.”

    I’m delighted that your book club members enjoyed reading and discussing Teddi’s story, and I hope when you see them you’ll extend my thanks.

  5. Everyone around here attends book club even if they haven’t finished the book. I really liked Looking For Me but I have to admit I thought Hoffman’s first book, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was better.

  6. Sounds intriguing enough to read, for sure. It’s so nice to see book reviews that are not cheesy romance novels like I see on so many blogs!

  7. Enjoyed reading your post and remembering the story through your thoughts. Not only did I read it but went back for a second with the audiobook to experience it again. Something very charming and good development of the characters that allowed me to get to know them.

    Seeing other options for books that might be reminiscent of LOOKING FOR ME was so appreciated. I will stop by again.

    1. I’m so glad! Thanks for commenting! You’ve reminded me that I always meant to read more of Beth Hoffman, too, so I’ll have to read another this spring.

Would love to have you comment!