Review: The Greatest Man In Cedar Hole by Stephanie Doyon

Title: The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole

Author: Stephanie Doyon

Published: Bloomsbury 2005

Synopsis: For generations, Cedar Hole has been the armpit of Gilford County, a town full of apathetic underachievers trapped by a defunct railroad, distrust of the outside world, and their own lack of imagination. It has also been the home of the Pinkhams, a family whose gluttonous reputation stirs up fear and loathing even among the town’s most indifferent citizens. Enter Francis “”Spud”” Pinkham, the youngest of the clan and favorite whipping boy of his nine brutish sisters. Almost from the moment of his unwelcome arrival into the world Francis knows his path in life will be as bumpy as Cedar Hole’s unkempt roads. On the other end of the spectrum is Robert J. Cutler, the bright only child of two factory workers and town golden boy, who gracefully steps into the role of Cedar Hole’s good-hearted visionary. Robert’s blind optimism and unshakable faith dazzles everyone around him — except Francis. When a town competition forces a rivalry between the boys that follows them into adulthood, Francis must struggle to emerge from Robert’s shadow. It is only through love, starting a family of his own, and a brush with the American dream that Francis Pinkham learns just what it takes to become the greatest man in Cedar Hole

Status: Read from January 12 to 14, 2012

My Thoughts:

I’m often drawn to books about small town life, probably because I pine for the community that existed when I was younger where, for better or worse, everyone knew everything about everybody. Cedar Hole is such a town, isolated by geography and their own insular interests, it is place where people are born and die.

With deft characterisation, Doyon introduces us to Robert J Cutler and Francis ‘Spud’ Pinkham, who are just six at the time. As the youngest of nine children, and the only boy, Francis is already bowed by the expectations of the community. The wild reputation of his sisters precedes him and he is treated according to their behaviour. As an only child of a reclusive mother and quiet father, Robert J Cutler escapes the preconceptions of the town and his individual personality, very different to that of his classmates, is encouraged. While Robert is oblivious to the inequality, Francis is both baffled by, and envious of, Robert’s optimistic nature and the advantages that are afforded him.
Doyen follows the lives of these two boys through their childhood and into adulthood, and it’s a fascinating character study of two men who are born of, and remain in, similar circumstances whose lives take different paths. It is also partly an examination of the nature versus nurture debate, how much of who we are and what we do is innate behaviour, and what effect does expectation have on the choices we make.
As with many small town novels there are a number of supporting characters that never the less have their own distinct personalities, from the disgruntled school teacher who drinks too much to the Sheriff who is woefully unprepared for anything involving real police work. The town of Cedar Hole is almost a character in it’s own right, with it’s tiny stores, unpaved roads and abandoned rail way tracks.

The pace of the novel is slow, very little happens in Cedar Hole, but it is a place you visit for the people not the scenery. I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know how the lives of Robert and Francis would turn out, and who, when all was said and done, the greatest man in Cedar Hole.

The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole is a story of ordinary people doing their best in an ordinary town. Wry, entertaining and bittersweet, this is a novel of growing up and growing old.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mari (Bookworm with a View)
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 07:36:08

    First, I love seeing Jan 20 on your post when it’s still the 19th here. 🙂

    Sorry this one didn’t workout so good. When reflecting on a slow moving novel, the story can be good, just lacking something (compared to disliking it). I still like a bit more action.



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Jan 20, 2012 @ 16:27:24

      LOL I always wondered if you might see a different a date or if it adjusted itself according to the IP this is your future!



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