"... in Cedar Hole, when a person rose above the lot, everyone else
looked around and thought they were sinking. Balance had to be
restored, and if fate didn't see to it, the citizens of Cedar Hole
took it upon themselves to make sure that victory and defeat were
served up in equal portions."
Why on Earth would anyone want to go to Cedar Hole? That may sound
like a curious question, but it took a while for the local railroad
to find out that not many folks actually did. After several years
of declining ridership, they decided to cut the route short, making
fashionable Palmdale the new end of the line, one short stop before
Cedar Hole and many miles beyond in prestige. Young Francis Pinkham
spent a lifetime waiting for the train to return, watching the line
with eager anticipation because, just as soon as it pulled in
again, he planned to be on it. Meanwhile, he grew into a teenager,
married, fathered a child, and generally contented himself making a
living in this small town, waiting for the train to come back and
take him places.
One of Pinkham's schoolmates, Robert J. Cutler, was forever
upstaging Francis --- and everyone else in town, for that matter. A
young man with too much talent and an eye toward community service,
Cutler never planned to leave Cedar Hole. After his father passed
on, he promised his mother that he would take care of her, and he
was a man of his word. Then, when she died, he still stayed on in
Cedar Hole. Many wondered why. Robert was just too good for the
likes of the Hole. Everyone thought so --- except, of course,
Francis Pinkham. He sure didn't see it that way.
Growing up in a family of nine malicious sisters --- who were
almost more masculine than he --- Francis learned a lot about the
unfairness of life, but even he would admit that it made him
stronger. He took life in stride and made the best of what fate
threw his way. Even if the rail company refused to bring the train
back, Francis Pinkham was going places.
Robert, on the other hand, was an only child, showered with every
advantage his working class parents could afford. Without the daily
terror that plagued Francis in the form of his cruel sisters,
Robert could focus his energies on the future, and ways to make it
better for everyone in town. And so he did.
It is hard not to choose sides with these strongly dimensioned
characters. They grow to greater-than-life size on the pages. One
can feel Francis's chronic frustration and Robert's easy
determination. One can see the set of Francis's clenched jaw, of
Robert's disarming smile. While both Francis and Robert are good
men deep down to the core, only one of them can be the Greatest Man
in Cedar Hole. Find out which one it is in this superbly written
and quietly rousing debut saga.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011
The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole