cover image The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole

The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole

Stephanie Doyon, . . Simon & Schuster, $24 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-7133-2

Doyon, the author of series books for teens, peoples her adult debut, a sprawling, bustling chronicle of smalltown life, with a passel of intriguing characters, first among them the sad-sack town itself. Schoolmarm Delia Pratt calls her charges "Cedar Hellions" and bums cigs from the older girls at lunch; the nine Pinkham tomboys are depraved viragos who bully their young brother, Francis. Valiantly keeping up standards at the ramshackle library is Kitty Higgens, who receives a godsend in the form of an assistant, Robert J. Cutler. This model youth and citizen—the anomalous paragon of the title—wins a pivotal contest called the Lawn Rodeo by forming a star pattern instead of the required straight line mowed by rightful winner Francis. Years later, Robert—who remained loyal to Cedar Hole despite opportunities elsewhere—dies in a freak accident, leaving his wife embittered by his obsession with town matters at the expense of family, and Francis with an open field to venture into something extraordinary. Doyon writes pungently, with a wry slant, and pulls no punches regarding gossip, jealousy, schadenfreude and the myriad human foibles that are the backbone of farce, so the warm feeling when we close the book—with virtue rewarded and fences mended—feels earned. Agent, Simon Lipskar . (July)