three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-GreatestMadCedarHoleThe confident and persistently cheerful Robert J. Cutler has just entered the fourth grade, where he is the greatest student the school has ever seen. Although Robert is capable of greater things, his fate lies entirely within his beloved town of Cedar Hole, where the rest of the schoolchildren are a hopeless, lazy bunch. His class also holds school bully and lifelong enemy Francis "Spud" Pinkham. Robert’s and Spud’s paths diverge further as they grow up: Robert becomes a model citizen while Spud marries his first girlfriend and lives a penniless existence in which nothing seems to go his way. Things could go on this way forever, but fate has other plans. 
Simon & Schuster. 384 pages. $24. ISBN: 0743271335

Portland Phoenix 4 of 5 Stars
"The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole aspires to be nothing more than a great tale, and in this it succeeds, but Doyon’s sensitivity to all of her characters, honest or deceitful, gives this classic story of rivalry enough texture to make it memorable." Sara Donnelly

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In light of all this provinciality, it comes as a surprise that Ms. Doyon’s book spans decades and takes some powerful, serious turns. Without overburdening her material, she develops an array of acts and consequences, linking them in ways that give the book some weight." Janet Maslin

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The story unspools with a sureness rare in a first novel. . . . We readers find ourselves both blinking in surprise and smiling at each off-kilter development." Karen R. Long

South FL Sun-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Doyon, whose previous books have been written for teenagers, makes her debut in adult fiction with a heart-warming, sometimes whimsical, occasionally exaggerated (Nine terrible sisters? Wouldn’t five have been enough?) depiction of a depressed and depressing town. She has drawn some colorful characters who try to breathe life into their moribund existence with doses of integrity, loyalty and love." Myrna Lippman

Small Spiral Notebook 3 of 5 Stars
"The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole contributes to the pantheon of imaginary American towns a community that falls somewhere between Winesburg, Ohio and Twin Peaks." Beth Machlan

Critical Summary

An author and ghostwriter of novels for teenagers makes her well-received adult fiction debut with an immensely entertaining, superbly written tale that is difficult to categorize. The characters are entirely realistic, and the small town of Cedar Hole is rendered well enough to be a character in its own right. Many critics compare Doyon’s writing style to that of John Irving or Richard Russo. The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole is never unbelievable, although one critic thought that its ending was predictable.